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Offer to settle Qld contract dispute firming up

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The Queensland Government is firming up its offer to doctors in an attempt to allay concerns about its controversial plans to force senior hospital medical staff onto individual contracts.

In a sign that work to resolve the dispute has recommenced following a tense stand-off late last month, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has introduced amendments to the Health and Hospitals Board Act 2011 to ensure that changes to a Health Employment Directive should not disadvantage a senior doctor in comparison with their employment contract.

The Minister has also issued a directive to Queensland Health Director General Ian Maynard requiring him to consult with the yet to be formed Queensland Health Contract Advisory Committee before making any changes to the relevant Health Employment Directives that influence contract terms.

The AMA is taking advice on the amendments, which can be viewed here, as well as on the terms of a contract addendum developed by Queensland Health.

The signs of progress came as AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton rejected suggestions of a split between organisations representing doctors in the Queensland hospital contracts dispute.

Dr Hambleton said that although unions were running an independent campaign on the issue, there was no divergence between the AMA, the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation and the Together union in their joint commitment to a satisfactory

His comments came after the Courier-Mail claimed a split between doctor groups was emerging after AMA representatives did not attend a meeting involving doctors and unionists on 31 March.

Dr Hambleton said his priority as AMA President was to “remain engaged” with Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and the Director General of Queensland Health to negotiate an outcome.

He said the AMA was waiting to see the detail of amendments to the Hospital and Health Boards Act, which are due to be introduced to Queensland Parliament later this week.

The AMA President said the Queensland Government had come part way to meeting the AMA’s call for a moratorium on the introduction of the contracts by cutting the amount of notice resigning doctors need to give from three to two months.

He urged that the appointment of an independent mediator be considered as a way to assist the negotiation of a settlement.

Dr Hambleton made his comments as it emerged that Queensland Health had failed in its attempt to get an immediate Federal Court injunction to stop the AMA, ASMOF and Together from providing information to their members that it claimed was misleading.

In a blow to the Department, the Federal Court set the hearing on the application for 6 May – virtually a week after the deadline for doctors to sign the contracts.

Adrian Rollins