Remote Controlled Staffing – How COVID-19 provided solutions to longstanding workforce challenges for speech pathology in ISLHD

Ms Sue-Ellen Hogg1, Ms Ashleigh Brown1

1Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Wollongong, Australia

The ‘Speech Pathology Horizons Scanning and Scenario Generation’ workforce report, commissioned by NSW Ministry of Health in 2018, identified the use of technology to support the delivery of services as an opportunity to overcome challenges and demand pressures, particularly in rural and remote areas.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District provides services to regional and rural populations. While the district is in close proximity to metropolitan Sydney, recruitment and retention of staff has been a longstanding issue. High rates of maternity leave and support for career opportunities result in the need to regularly recruit to temporary and part time positions. With the absence of a local speech pathology training program, it can be difficult to attract experienced clinicians who do not necessarily want to relocate for short-term contracts.

With the rapid roll out of clinical telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and non-clinical business moving online, the ability to provide services from virtually anywhere was realised, presenting a solution to longstanding workforce challenges.

A dedicated telehealth speech pathology position was established and successfully recruited. The new team member works from home in northern Sydney to provide effective adult speech pathology services to patients across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions.

This presentation will discuss the challenges and overwhelming benefits of establishing such an agile position, from on-boarding and governance, through to models of care and value based outcomes.


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