Queensland’s assistant health minister is still threatening to quit over controversial doctor contracts.
Queensland’s assistant health minister is still threatening to quit if new doctor contracts cause patient harm.
The government is at loggerheads over the contracts, which are to be offered to the state’s 3500 senior medical doctors.
Their lobby group warns that an unknown number will move interstate or to the private system as early as the end of March.
A rally is planned in Ipswich on Wednesday.
Assistant minister Chris Davis, also the former Australian Medical Association Queensland president, addressed the Liberal National party room on Monday and circulated a dissenting letter to MPs which says his position was untenable if the contracts caused patient harm.
After health minister Lawrence Springborg summonsed his assistant to a meeting on Tuesday morning, Dr Davis conceded the contracts would significantly improve job security.
But he won’t retract his letter as there were still unresolved issues.
Doctors would not be able to access the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for unfair dismissal, there is no binding arbitration, and the employer would still be able to unilaterally vary contracts, Dr Davis said.
He wouldn’t offer an opinion on whether he believed doctors would quit, therefore reducing resources and putting patient safety at risk.
But he said that was the perception among a significant number of doctors and hoped further negotiations work through the sticking points.
“The jury will be the doctors,” he told AAP.
“One of my key performance indicators is attracting and retaining the workforce and making sure they feel valued.
“If my KPI isn’t there, I should actually do the right thing and not continue.”
Despite causing public disunity, Mr Springborg hasn’t asked for Dr Davis’ resignation and said he was highly respected.
Official negotiations won’t be reopened – after 33 meetings conducted over six months – but Mr Springborg said he was willing to work through emergent issues.
He didn’t believe that he and the local health boards could have done a better sales pitch.
Under the new deals, severance pay would increase from three to six months, doctors could no longer be transferred to anywhere in the state, and they would have recourse to common law.
“There is a lot of misinformation going around and scaremongering,” Mr Springborg said.
“Sometimes emotion, which is put forward by some people, actually seems to be given more countenance than the facts.”
Local health boards are due to send out the new contracts this and next week, and the government hopes they are signed by the end of April.
Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland President Dr Nick Buckmaster said if senior doctors resigned, patient waiting lists could increase and there would be less supervision of junior doctors.
“Unless these issues are addressed, there will be a very major impact on our public hospital system and that will take many years to repair,” he told AAP.