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West Wimmera health chief stands on busy highway in bid to attract more staff

Ritchie Dodds spent a couple of hours on the side of the highway outside the Nhill hospital. (Supplied: West Wimmera Health Service)

The head of a regional Victorian health service has resorted to standing on the side of a busy highway draped in a sandwich board in a bid to draw attention to the desperate need for healthcare workers.

West Wimmera Health Service chief executive Ritchie Dodds was last week photographed outside Nhill Hospital wearing a sign that advertised the need for more health staff.

"I just quickly put together quite a large sandwich board, as we refer to it, and we put that sign on there saying jobs in large red letters," Mr Dodds said.

"The Easter traffic was one of the draws, because there are thousands of cars going past, so we had a good audience."

Mr Dodds said he stood there for a couple of hours and during that time, people in cars pulled over to ask questions.

The picture has also been shared on social media, including the health service's Facebook page.

Mr Dodds said the service had received several resumes.

"One person, a registered nurse, said 'look, I feel a bit sorry for you having to do that, Ritchie, here's my resume'," he said.

He said standing outside the health service with a sign was another way to remind people of the shortage of health workers.

Demand for staff to increase

Mr Dodds said the health service needed up to 25 more full-time staff to meet existing demand, but expected that to rise with changes to staffing requirements for aged care facilities.

He said a number of the West Wimmera Health Service's aged care facilities weren't at full capacity, but would likely be if they had enough staff.

He said staff were also needed in a range of non-clinical roles, including maintenance workers and receptionists.

"If it gets us one more person without having to spend [on] advertising, it was probably worth it," Mr Dodds said.

A video Bendigo Health uploaded onto TikTok went viral in 2022. (Supplied: Bendigo Health)

Impact of TikTok ban

Meanwhile, another Victorian health service is looking to other social media platforms to help with recruitment after TikTok was banned from government devices.  

Bendigo Health had been using the Chinese-owned social media platform to help attract staff.

"While we are awaiting advice and guidance from the state government, Bendigo Health has ceased using TikTok as part of our recruitment effort and are transitioning our advertisements to alternate social media platforms," a spokesperson for the health service said.

The federal government earlier this month announced TikTok would be banned on government devices.

The Victorian government committed to follow the federal government's lead by implementing changes across the public service as soon as possible.

The Victorian Premier's TikTok account has been deleted.

Bendigo Health went viral last year, after it posted a homage to the 1997 blockbuster movie, Titanic, on its TikTok account.

The video was set to the film's theme song, Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, and featured workers sailing through a hospital corridor on a hospital bed.

It gave Bendigo Health exposure on other social media platforms, as well as breakfast television.

Peak body calls for change

Rural Doctors Association of Australia chief executive Peta Rutherford said she was not surprised by what the health services had been doing.

"What we do have to be open to is that innovation," she said.

"We need to be looking at the social media platforms where early career doctors are engaging."

She said recruitment and workforce distribution was still one of the biggest challenges for regional, rural and remote health services.

"Workforce issues are now extending into regional areas, which have been experienced by rural areas for much longer," she said.

Peta Rutherford is calling for change. (Supplied)

She said there was a focus on sub-specialisation within the medical profession, which she believed was contributing to the workforce pressures.

"We need to be making sure there are strong policy changes to encourage more of our domestic graduates into rural generalist medicine," she said.

"It's not like city people aren't impacted by the issues that are happening in our rural communities – they are.

"It's in everyone's interests that we get the workforce issues addressed for rural, remote and regional communities."

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