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Queensland doctors threaten to walk


Queensland’s public hospitals are facing a mass exodus of senior medical staff as doctors lash out over the State Government’s plans to force them onto individual contracts.

Almost 85 per cent of the 800 doctors who responded to an AMA Queensland survey said they planned either to resign, to reduce their hours or to leave Queensland Health over the terms of the contracts, which have been condemned as draconian and unfair.

AMA Queensland President Dr Christian Rowan told the Brisbane Times the contracts compromised patient safety by doing away with fatigue provisions, and denied senior doctors recourse to independent third parties where there were disputes.

Dr Rowan said 90 per cent of the doctors responding to the survey said they believed the contracts would reduce workplace retention, undermine core clinical services, and undermine education, training and research in the public hospital system.

The Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation of Queensland has lodged a notice of dispute with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, challenging the terms of the contracts.

Ratcheting up the pressure on the Queensland Government, ASMOF’s Federal Council has joined the AMA Federal Council in condemning its actions, and has issued a nationwide warning to members about the terms of the Queensland contracts.

The dispute has already attracted international attention.

New Zealand’s Association of Salaried Medical Specialists issued an extraordinary warning to its members urging them to consider carefully any offer to work in Queensland.

A spokesman for Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg told the Brisbane Times that an Auditor-General’s report had identified widespread abuses of current workplace agreements, claiming 1000 doctors earning more than $100,000 had been paid while not performing work.

“We are trying to establish a system in which the remuneration of our senior medical personnel is related to the work they do, not work they don’t do,” the spokesman said. “In many cases there are doctors who are required to work 40 hours, but the tradition is for them to work their 40 hours across four days, not five, and the fifth is counted as overtime.”

The Queensland Government has been warned its drastic actions threaten to recreate the conditions that led to the Bundaberg Hospital scandal, in which an overseas-trained doctor was employed as head of surgery on the basis of a bogus employment history because of difficulty attracting and retaining locally-trained staff.

Federal AMA has urged Mr Springborg to dump the proposed contracts and work with AMA Queensland and ASMOF on employment arrangements that work best for doctors, their patients and the health system.

Adrian Rollins