Bendigo Health offers staff $299 Visa cards to find more midwives as staff shortage hits hard

Related: Pressure grows on hospital’s maternity unit

BENDIGO Health has resorted to offering staff gift cards if they can successfully refer a midwife to work at the new hospital.

The move is an apparent attempt to solve a skills shortage in the hospital’s maternity unit, which is struggling to cope with “rapid growth” in demand with “limited staff and beds available”.

The $299 Visa cards will be given to staff if their referred midwife makes it through the probation period.

Bendigo Health claims the offer is a “well used technique” for staff recruitment.

The posters, which have been circulating in the maternity ward, state the hospital is looking for midwives with at least 12 months experience to work in Bendigo’s new “world class facility”.

“If… we successfully recruit them, and they stay past their probation period, we will provide you with a $299 visa card,” the poster reads.

A spokesperson for Bendigo Health said it was not an unusual method for the hospital to adopt.

“The new Bendigo Hospital has created exciting employment opportunities in a number of departments and Bendigo Health is actively recruiting to fill these positions,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a well used technique when organisations recruit.”

Staff shortages in the hospital’s maternity ward were highlighted in Bendigo Health’s submission to a perinatal services inquiry.

Six months after opening, the ward’s Special Care Nursery has been constantly above 90 per cent capacity, while staff shortages were described as a “constant challenge for managers”.

The poster offering Bendigo Health staff Visa cards if they can find more midwives for the maternity unit.

The poster offering Bendigo Health staff Visa cards if they can find more midwives for the maternity unit.

The nursery is required to accept “high risk” women from across the Loddon-Mallee region, causing further crowding in the maternity unit.

Bendigo Health pointed to a lack of midwifery staff available in the Bendigo region, and issues in staff retention, as causes of the shortage.

The report from the parliamentary inquiry into perinatal services was expected to be handed down in December, but that date may be extended into 2018.

The government then has six months to respond, meaning solutions to the problem might not be announced for at least 12 months.

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards is a member of the inquiry, and said Bendigo Health recruitment policies were a matter for the health service.

But she said the issue was not unique to Bendigo.

“Nor would they be unique to regional Victoria,” Ms Edwards said.

“A number of submissions refer to perinatal staffing concerns.”

The hospital has the option of bringing in midwives on 457 visas, but a global midwifery skills shortage means there is greater demand elsewhere.

The hospital’s new maternity ward – which opened in January – boasts seven birth suites and 15 Special Care Nursery beds.

But staffing issues mean some units are using casual staff on a daily basis, making it difficult to cover short notice leave.

The Bendigo hospital has also had to refuse requests for transfers from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to its birth suite and Special Care Nursery.

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