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Shortage of Radiologists in Australia

September 25, 2019 0 Comments

General Practitioners are not the only ones with a rural shortage in Australia, clinical Radiologists in regional areas are also impacted and there can be negative impacts on the patient care. 

Shortage of Radiologists in Australia

Radiologist Supply in Australia

Location of Radiologist Jobs

Implications

 

Radiologist Supply in Australia

According to the March 2018 edition of InsideNews on RANZCR, in 2016 there were 2013 radiologists in Australia, a 14% increase since 2012 and 75% increase since 2000 due to a doubling of trainee numbers between 2000 and 2012. This growth surpassed the population growth and Medicare utilisation.

The 2016 report also had the following findings for Radiologists in Australia:

  • 73.5% were male, 26.5% female;
  • The average age was around 50 (men’s age 51.3 &  women’s age 46.9) with one third being over 55 years of age;
  • Women were more likely to work Part-time early on in their careers, for men this was the opposite who preferred to work Part-time hours later in their careers 
  • Men were more likely to be interventional radiologists and performed proportionately more procedures than women;
  • A disproportionately high number (87%) are living in the major capital cities of Australia;
  • Rural Radiologists on average were found to be older, men and more likely to be generalists.

Low mobility was also a factor – the findings in 2016 suggested less than 2% of Radiologists were unemployed and actively looking for work, and 2015 findings showed that around 50% of Radiologists had worked in their current jobs for nearly 10 years without having a need to change the workplace. 

Doctors sitting around the table and interpreting x-ray image

Location of Radiologist Jobs

Based on the 2016 Clinical Radiology Workforce Census Report Australia, a geographical imbalance was considered one of the biggest contributions to the shortage of Radiologists in rural Australia. It can be difficult to attract new Radiologists to relocate permanently – even when offering partnership and highly lucrative salaries. 

Some of the reasons for this may include:

  • If working as a locum or short-term then the Radiologist is away from their family for periods of time;
  • If working permanently then the partners also need to find employment and children may need schooling choices;
  • Potential risk of competition depending on the area of Australia and potential loss of hospital work; 
  • Lifestyle sacrifices when comparing amenities of small vs large cities. 

Implications 

Last year it was revealed that due to the ongoing shortage of Radiologists in Canberra, inpatient X-rays were being reviewed offsite for over a year. This created problems whereby patients’ previous scans history were ignored and trainee specialists sometimes worked unsupervised. The scans were either sent interstate or sometimes sent overseas to doctors working for a private Radiology provider and this is where previous patient histories can be overlooked. 

This would lower the standard of medical services because the external reporting Radiologist did not discuss the scans with the clinician responsible for treating the patient.  In this case, the external Radiologist did not have full access to previous scans to be able to make the best interpretations of the results.

Male doctor looking an x-ray  with a patient-1

Also in South Australia, BreastScreen mentioned how this shortage has impacted the time that patients are advised of their results. Female patients were expected to receive their result letters up to 15 days after the screening.

It is important there is a stable and ongoing Radiologist workforce. Patients will benefit immensely with faster test results and more specialised and local care who are also aware of their full history. 

And similarly to Canberra, Adelaide’s hospitals have also had problems with a shortage of Radiologists. They also experienced delays in reporting. A delay in diagnosis can often be serious if it is a severe health problem, because then the intervention is also delayed and overall the successful outcome for the patient is at risk. 

With RANZCR’s InsideNews reports, there is some indication that addressing the expansion of Radiology sites, providing training opportunities such as the Commonwealth Integrated Rural Training Pathway (IRTP) and prioritising recruitment issues for permanent and locum Radiologist jobs could have positive impacts in the industry.  

Image of two young two doctors discussing x-ray results

What are your thoughts on the implications from a Radiologist shortage? We would love to hear from you. 

Scheduling a call Today with our friendly consultant Judith Butcher and find out what Radiology jobs in Australia she can recommend to you. 

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