Moving towards a more robust health workforce in Fiji

Feature story

September 2014 - In response to workforce shortages which result in patient overcrowding in hospitals, long waiting queues for services in emergency and outpatient departments, and for many, the need to travel long distances to access basic health services, WHO together with the Ministry of Health and Fiji Health Sector Support Program (FHSSP) carried out an assessment of workforce needs and projected future requirements.

How many health workers are needed?

The assessment was carried out over 18 months. Partners utilized the WHO's Workload Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN tool and method to estimate the number of health workers required to cope with the actual workload at each facility. This a different approach to the traditional assessment of ratio of worker to population. The partners then used the Service Targets Staff Projection Tool (STSPT) to estimate the workforce required to deliver an agreed package of health services.

The activity was undertaken across all divisions and involved 236 Ministry of Health staff across all clinical cadres (doctors, nurses, dentists and allied health workers) as well as administration and management cadres.

The product of this work is the Workforce Projection Report 2014 to 2024. The key findings of the Report are that the Ministry of Health is currently functioning at only 76% of required capacity relative to actual workload. This places considerable pressure on health workers.

553 new positions

The Ministry of Health presented this information to the Fiji Cabinet in July 2014. Cabinet agreed with the Report's findings, and to the creation of 553 new positions over the next four years. This is a great result for the Ministry of Health, which is at the frontline of Fiji’s noncommunicable diseases crisis.

At the same time, the activity is assisting to set foundations for a more comprehensive and sustained workforce development plan. This plan will provide Fiji's health workers with clearer career paths. Improving professional development is one way to strengthen retention of experienced and specialized staff.

(adapted from the Fiji Health Sector Support Program Newsletter, Edition 13 September 2014)