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.