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New index to examine geographic supply of clinical health workforce for Indigenous Australians

Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy, Psychology, The Health Industry

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare utilised a new measure for its report, Spatial distribution of the supply of the clinical health workforce 2014: relationship to the distribution of the Indigenous population. The measure is Geographically-adjusted Index of Relative Supply (GIRS), which was developed to overcome limitations in using relatively simple provider-to-population ratios to compare areas with vastly different geographic characteristics.

The GIRS takes data on seven key professions with particular relevance to Indigenous Australians: general practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists, psychologists and optometrists. Then it creates a score ranging from 0 to 8 in each Statistical Area level 2 (SA2). Areas with lower GIRS scores are more likely to face workforce supply challenges than those with higher GIRS scores.

There is a higher proportion of ATSI people live in areas with lower GIRS scores than non-Indigenous people. GIRS scores of 0 or 1 (facing supply challenge) occur most often for midwives, optometrists and psychologists, and least often for nurses.

  • Over 19,000 ATSI women of child-bearing age live in 120 SA2s with a low relative supply of midwives.
  • Over 85,000 ATSI people live in 56 SA2s with a low relative supply of optometrists.
  • Over 76,000 ATSI people live in 49 SA2s with a low relative supply of psychologists.

There were 155 SA2s out of 2,091 with a GIRS score of 0–1 in at least one profession. Nearly 20% of ATSI people live in these areas, compared with 3% of the non-Indigenous population.

Over 72,000 ATSI people live in the 39 SA2s where at least four of the seven have GIRS scores of 0 or 1. Over 30,000 of these people live in the 13 SA2s where at least six of the seven professions have GIRS scores of 0 or 1.

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