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'It can't be good for the patients' wellbeing'

NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat says doctors working excessive overtime is in nobody's interest.

PT0M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2blrl 620 349

A MILLION-DOLLAR doctor, thousands of unpaid bills and debts that exceed assets: that's the financial shape of NSW hospitals says the Auditor-General.

Six employees earned more than half a million dollars over the past three years, and one was paid more than $1 million in overtime and call-backs over three years.

The Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, said he found it astounding that one person could earn so much overtime.

The Auditor General, Mr Peter Achterstraat

"Excessive overtime, whether it be rostered, unrostered, or on-call cannot be good for the employees' health and patient well-being" ... Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat. Photo: Bob Pearce

''Excessive overtime, whether it be rostered, unrostered or on-call cannot be good for the employees' health and patient well-being,'' he said.

The opposition health spokesman, Andrew McDonald, who is a doctor, said it was dangerous. The report found local health districts are struggling to meet goals on the cost of care, with the majority not meeting the first activity based funding targets.

In future, federal funding will be tied to targets.

It found all but one health district had debts that exceeded assets, nearly half were over-budget and long-standing unpaid bills were increasing. The NSW Ministry of Health bailed out some districts with $73 million in extra funding.

Dr McDonald said the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, had ''outsourced risk'' to hospital districts without providing resources to meet demand.

Ms Skinner said it was normal for the ministry to provide extra funding, particularly in peparation for activity-based funding.

''We've got two years to roll this all out so we've got a bit of time for the districts to get a better understanding of what they have got to do better,'' she said.

She said that the overall health budget would still balance.

She denied that the doctor who earned a million dollars in overtime was necessarily putting patients at risk.

She said overtime payments were ''complicated'' and could involve payments for short periods of time.

''Nevertheless, a lot of the districts are now working hard to reduce overtime,'' she said.