Public hospital specialists slam Campbell Newman’s plan to force contacts, set up $1.8m fighting fund

24.01.2014

QUEENSLAND public hospital specialists are split over the latest Newman Government contracts, with the Australian Medical Association Queensland president Christian Rowan saying he’s willing to sign one.

Dr Rowan, who has previously sought pre-selection as an LNP candidate, is at odds with other sectors of the profession who have voted to set up a $1.8 million fighting fund to oppose the controversial performance-based contracts.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday declared negotiations over, hinting an Auditor-General’s report, due to be handed down next month, will highlight an existing system “exceptionally vulnerable” to abuse, particularly in relation to overtime.

He pledged most specialists would not be worse off.

“We know already we have large numbers of doctors who are willing to sit down and negotiate,” Mr Springborg said.

But a meeting of senior medical officers in Brisbane rejected the contracts in their current form, describing them as “completely unfair”.

The specialists agreed to allow the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation to create a fighting fund through the introduction of a $1000 levy on its 1800 Queensland members and by calling for donations from other concerned members of the medical profession and the public.

ASMOF federal president Tony Sara said Premier Campbell Newman had “declared war on doctors” by introducing contracts that “are worse than Work Choices”, including the ability to enforce shift work.

“They can be varied by the employer at will, there’s no dispute resolution, it’s just absolutely horrendous,” Dr Sara said.

“He wants to have a go, we’ll give it back to him. We will not let the profession of medicine in Queensland and the public hospitals be screwed over by a right wing Campbell Newman Government.”

Dr Sara, who flew from Sydney to attend the meeting, said both the Australian and New Zealand unions of salaried hospital specialists had issued “employment alerts” against Queensland public hospitals, warning doctors about accepting jobs in the Sunshine state.

ASMOF Queensland president Nick Buckmaster said senior specialists were already starting to leave the public hospital system because of the contracts.

“We are aware of doctors who have either left to go interstate or who have decided to bring forward retirement plans,” Dr Buckmaster said.

“We know that there is already difficulty in recruiting into the public hospital system in Queensland. In the past, we were getting competition for our senior positions. That is disappearing.”

But Mr Springborg dismissed the ASMOF campaign as “far from the universal view” of doctors in relation to the contracts, citing Dr Rowan’s willingness to sign up.

Dr Rowan, who works part-time as a senior medical officer, said that his professional sense of obligation and commitment to the public hospital system, as well as the reality of being a husband and father with financial obligations, meant he had to give serious consideration to the government contract.

He said his signing up would be subject to individual negotiations with his Hospital and Health Service, in relation to performance indicators and remuneration.

Dr Rowan has previously said contracts have the “capacity to drive productivity, efficiency, value for money and enhance transparency of system outcomes within the public hospital system”.

Earlier it was reported: SENIOR public hospital specialists in Queensland will set up a $1.8 million fighting fund to oppose plans by the Newman Government to force them on to contracts they say are “completely unfair”.

It comes as Australian and New Zealand unions of salaried hospital specialists had issued “employment alerts” against Queensland public hospitals, warning doctors about working in the Sunshine state.

A meeting of senior medical officers in Brisbane Thursday night rejected the contracts in their current form and voted to campaign against the Government to fight their introduction.

The doctors agreed to allow the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation to create a fighting fund through the introduction of a $1000 levy on its 1800 Queensland members and by calling for donations from other concerned members of the medical profession and the public.

ASMOF federal president Tony Sara said Premier Campbell Newman had “declared war on doctors” by introducing contracts that “are worse than Work Choices”, including the ability to enforce shift work.

“They can be varied by the employer at will, there’s no dispute resolution, it’s just absolutely horrendous,” Dr Sara said. “He wants to have a go, we’ll give it back to him. We will not let the profession of medicine in Queensland and the public hospitals be screwed over by a right wing Campbell Newman Government.”

Dr Sara said both the Australian and New Zealand unions of salaried hospital specialists had issued “employment alerts” against Queensland public hospitals, warning doctors about accepting jobs in the Sunshine state.

ASMOF Queensland president Nick Buckmaster said senior specialists were already starting to leave the public hospital system because of the contracts.

“We are aware of doctors who have either left to go interstate or who have decided to bring forward retirement plans,” Dr Buckmaster said.

“We know that there is already difficulty in recruiting into the public hospital system in Queensland. In the past, we were getting competition for our senior positions. That is disappearing.”

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said he was not concerned by the union’s fighting fund.

“If the doctors’ union wishes to raise money from its members to support the Labor party in Redcliffe and Griffith, to campaign against a nurse candidate for the LNP in Redcliffe and a doctor candidate for the LNP in Griffith then that’s a matter for them,” Mr Springborg said.

“We have both reached our lines in the sand. It is now a matter for individual doctors to now start the negotiation process with their managers around their individual contracts.”

Dr Buckmaster said he expected the fight over the contracts “would be a long one”.

He said if necessary, the fighting fund would be used to campaign against the Government contracts, and the implications for the public hospital system, in the lead-up to the next state election.

“We need to be bringing this to the public’s attention,” he said. “If need be, we will run advertisements.”

Dr Sara and Dr Buckmaster left open the possibility of campaigning against the LNP before the February 22 Redcliffe by-election.

The Brisbane meeting agreed to a series of resolutions, including that any new employment arrangements for senior medical officers must provide an undertaking that no doctor would be worse off under a contract, including taking into account private practice income.

Article source: Courier Mail

Springborg says ‘nothing remarkable’ about doctors on individual contracts

24.01.2014

Article source: Brisbane Times

The time for negotiating is over – like it or lump it, the government says, specialist doctors will be moved to individual contracts.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said there was “nothing remarkable” about the government’s plans, as staff in private hospitals and those interstate are already on similar arrangements.

“The reality is if you go into Victoria, they have contracts in Victoria, they have been on contracts for 15 years in Victoria, they have a contract arrangement of sorts in NSW, ours is an improvement on that,” he said.

“Indeed many of the doctors are who are employed in the public sector in Queensland, also have contracts working…with the likes of St Andrews, Wesley and other health care providers such as Greenslopes and they do it on a day to day basis.”

But the President of the Australian Salaried Medical Officer’s Federation Queensland, Nick Buckmaster, said the union would continue the fight.

“The union is collaborating with the federal union to look at how we can campaign against these draconian contracts,” Dr Buckmaster said.

“We have very serious concerns that because of the ability of local mangers to make the variations that that will lead to a repeat of the events that occurred in Bundaberg.

“It is very important that there is not undue duress placed on senior medical officers because their priority has to be individual patient care and these contracts open up the ability for there to be governance by targets rather than the basis of quality.”

But the union may have to continue the fight without the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association.

President Christian Rowan said following “intense” negotiations between the representative body and the government, “improvements and amendments” had been made to the draft visiting medical officer’s and senior medical officer’s contracts, “related to things like core hours of duty, dispute resolution and changes to clauses related to clinical support times”.

“Now what is being asked given that the negotiated period has concluded, what is being asked of VMOs and SMOs is to consider signing up to an individual contract,” Dr Rowan said.

“They will have all of the available information, which is due to be released by the department over the next few days.

“I, as a part time SMO will be approached by my hospital and health service to look at that info and discuss key performance indicators for myself and also my remuneration and asked to sign up.

“I would be encouraging all VMOs and SMOs to consider what is on offer.”

The government kick started the individual contract process following an adverse Auditor-General report on the Right to Private Practice program, which was found to have cost the health system more than $800 million over a decade.

The government says the new contracts will address imbalances in the system.