More than twice as many doctors as usual were recruited in Tasmania from either the mainland or overseas during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with relocating nurse numbers also significantly higher.
Rural workforce agency HR+, which carries out recruitment for the Commonwealth Health Department, detailed the numbers for a Senate inquiry into GP access in Australia, and highlighted how Tasmania's COVID-free status could have been behind the increase.
On average, 23 doctors and 35 nurses and allied health professionals are recruited in Tasmania from beyond its borders, but in 2020-21 this increased to 47 doctors and 53 nurses - the majority of whom relocated to communities other than Launceston and Hobart.
HR+ chief executive officer Peter Barns said it was an encouraging trend, and the current financial year was also likely to be above average for recruitment to Tasmania.
"Surprisingly, COVID-19 may have had a positive impact on the ability to recruit and retain medical, nursing and allied health professionals," he said.
"While we did not conduct a survey on why people relocated to Tasmania in the middle of a pandemic, it could be construed that the 'flight from lockdown' factor may have played a part in the success of the last 12 months.
"Recruitment so far in 2021-22 indicates the numbers will be up again - though probably not as high as the 2020-21 year."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Last week, a Tasmanian Legislative Council rural health inquiry heard that the state was suffering a shortage of about 100 GPs. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has also long been calling for increased staffing at hospitals.
A 2020 Primary Health Tasmania workforce needs assessment found there were 834 GPs - or 564 full-time equivalent - in 154 practices. The retention rate for international medical graduates in Tasmania was 90 per cent over the past three years.
Mr Barns said there was a "waiting list" for GP candidates wanting to enter the field, but supervision requirements were slowing the process down.
But Jan Radford, who is on the Tasmanian faculty council of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said supervision was a key requirement, regardless of the experience level of the new GP.
She said it was always preferable for Tasmania to train and supply its own GPs, rather than rely on interstate or overseas recruitment.
"Getting our registrars to go to rural communities and be trained is often difficult, they'd need a propensity to living rurally, could be worried about schooling for their children, onerous hours," Dr Radford said.
"The state government has a responsibility to pay well and to encourage safe practices."