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Why We Haven’t Seen The End Of FIFO Medical Jobs

Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) medical positions exist either because of a skills shortage of a given location, or simply because the position is in such a remote place (or offshore) that it requires someone from somewhere else to do the job.

Recently, a reduction in investment in the energy, mining and infrastructure (EMI) sector, largely because of diminishing oil, coal, and mineral prices has seen numbers of FIFO workers, as well as remuneration diminish. There have been calls to abolish FIFO work altogether, and QLD has recently implemented a policy to no longer allow a 100% FIFO workforce.

Except in the medical employment market, where the usual rules of employment economics don’t seem to apply.

In our agency, we’ve seen a recent surge in FIFO and offshore requirements for doctors. Whether it’s in the Northwest of Australia, Queensland, or on a ship in the farthest reaches of Australia, there are more jobs than ever.  I think there are a few reasons for this.

 

  • Large projects always need health services

With the populations of some projects exceeding 5000 workers, they are essentially a small town. Even if the site is near a town, it is likely that the medical facilities within that town are not going to be able to cope with the requirement. More often than not, there is no town nearby at all, so it is very unlikely that a local practitioner can provide the required services.

  • Maldistribution of skills

Even with the swelling numbers of interns in the system, that does not address the fact that there is maldistribution of the health workforce in Australia. In particular, doctors are not necessarily where we need them. Therefore we need to bring them to where they are needed.

  • Offshore positions will always exist

Australia is surrounded by water. This means that much of the oil and gas industry will have an offshore presence – whether on ships or rigs. In addition, as the emphasis on border and maritime security grows, positions on government vessels is steadily increasing as much of this work is being outsourced to private companies.

  • The allure of pay and conditions

Sure, the hours are usually longer in FIFO positions, and you’re there for 2/3/4/5/6 weeks straight. That said, your time off is your own, and you are generally making an above average income. If you’re especially keen, you can work on your off time (not recommended!) or pursue other business and personal interests. The pay rates will stay consistent as other areas of shortage (e.g. public hospitals) force the remuneration to stay at the current level.

 

We are seeing some changes, though, as resources companies tighten the budget. Some sites are requiring workers to self-organise travel to the closest capital city, or putting a geographical limit on the home location of their workers. Some sites are increasing rotation times, which reduces travel expenditure, but casts questions over fatigue and safety.

So, although things might be changing in the wider market, there is still plentiful FIFO medical work for now.

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