By Paul Hemsley
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has slammed the Queensland government’s decision to move all of its public hospital Senior Medical Officers to individual contracts from 1st July 2014.
The peak doctor’s group has warned that the state government’s decision will have “dramatic” consequences on medical workforce numbers and could force doctors to move interstate or into private practice.
Public hospitals hoping to attract or retain doctors have so far depended on an enterprise agreement with Queensland Health.
The AMA claims the enterprise agreement has significantly boosted the number of doctors working in public hospitals.
However doctors are now on the warpath over the new contract system which follows the Queensland government’s recent push to amend the state’s Industrial Relations Act 1999.
A joint statement to members of the AMA Queensland and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland (ASMOFQ) has warned the amendments would clear the way for doctors working for Queensland Health to forced onto “individual Workchoices style contracts”.
AMA Federal President Dr Steve Hambleton said the proposed new individual contracts will strip away key employment rights and undermine the progress Queensland has made in growing its public sector medical workforce.
“These draconian contracts will remove key protections such as fatigue provisions and rest breaks, limits on hours, access to unfair dismissal, dispute resolution, and grievance procedures,” Dr Hambleton said.
He said any loss of senior doctors from the public hospital system would make it harder to train the next generation of doctors to provide care for Queenslanders.
Dr Hambleton stressed that Queenslanders will soon find it much harder to access care in their local public hospital and would experience longer waiting times if the Newman government proceeds with “these ideologically-driven changes”.
“The AMA urges the government to rethink these changes and to work with the AMA Queensland and the profession to reach employment arrangements that work best for the doctors, their patients, and the Queensland health system,” Dr Hambleton said.
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