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Doctor contract amendments pass in parliament

Queensland government backbencher Bruce Flegg.

Queensland government backbencher Bruce Flegg. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

The government has legislated its contract concessions to the state's senior doctors, as two of its MPs urged it to return to the negotiating table.

The Health and Hospital Boards amendment bill was debated and passed on Thursday night.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said it provided "certainty and clarity" for doctors and "put an end to doubts and misinformation" about the individual contracts it has asked doctors to sign.

But not all LNP MPs are convinced the matter is finished.

In a speech to Parliament, Bruce Flegg said he was "clearly strongly in support" of the bill, but he believed that while "most" of the issues concerning doctors had been addressed, the government was approaching the "11th hour in this dispute before it will cause significant harm to the Queensland health system".

"At the centre of this dispute I think there has been a loss of trust in amongst some language perhaps on both sides," Dr Flegg said.

"But I do want to say that, as a backbencher whose main involvement to date has been rigorously representing the many medical practitioners in my electorate ... a simmering concern exists in Queensland among doctors, and I would say it is a legitimate concern, that the balance of power, influence and decision making between bureaucratic administrative staff and clinical staff is a very dangerous balance that needs to be preserved."

Dr Flegg said he believed one of the "sticking points" for doctors was the concessions the government offered were contained in an addendum to the contract, rather than being provisions in the contract itself.

The other issue he singled out was collective bargaining options.  He told parliament both were easily solved, if the doctors were able to speak to one proposal - "we have too many cooks here" - and the government was given an opportunity to "settle this in good faith".

Earlier in the day, assistant health minister Chris Davis said while he had seen progress, he would continue to monitor the situation.

"We have until the end of the month to actually measure progress in that area and of course every day is important in that regard, because every senior doctor who leaves out system is a loss to the system, so that is why we are all taking very seriously, the task of getting it right," he said.

"I think the overall health of the Queensland Health is absolutely critical to the wellbeing of Queensland, so if at any point where I think we have actually not been successful in that regard, I will have to reappraise my contribution."

But all parties agree that time is running out.  The government has set a signing deadline of April 30.  Large groups of doctors have not ruled out resigning before that date.  The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons joined a growing list of peak doctor bodies to publicly express concerns over the contracts, calling on the government to "consider a renegotiation".

Some doctors have taken to hand delivering letters to their neighbours explaining their side of the dispute; 'Sally' letterboxed homes in Paddington asking for public support.

"Governments come and go but doctors remain," she wrote.

"We are the custodians of this health system and will continue to advocate for our patients.  We are seriously concerned that the world class public hospital system we have built in Queensland is about to reach crisis point."

Mr Springborg has repeatedly said the government would offer no further concessions, beyond those in the addendum.

He urged senior doctors to "look closely at the government's contract framework, to discuss the details with their Hospital and Health Service and to sign the new contracts by April 30".

Doctor representatives said they would continue to lobby the government for a renegotiation.

4 comments so far

  • Everyone of these specialist groups, eg the plastic surgeons mentioned in the article, are in no lose situations .
    If the contracts are withdrawn,they keep raking in the money at the taxpayers expense with no contracted performance obligations or
    If contracts stay, public hospital workload gets reduced by their resignations and displaced patients rush to see them in the private system and they rake in more money.

    Commenter
    Brian
    Date and time
    April 04, 2014, 9:49AM
    • Congratulations to the Brisbane Times for the sort of uncensored coverage not available elsewhere in the regular media and to Bruce Flegg, an unexpected and unorthodox champion of a profession put under extraordinary stress. And to the myriad letterboxers like Sally who represent a 'sea change" in the attitudes of what was once considered a conservative group of people likely to vote LNP. No wonder that the poll reported elsewhere indicates a massive slide in public opinion - for many people a new election cannot come quickly enough.

      Commenter
      RyanFounder
      Location
      brisbane
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 10:24AM
      • Can someone tell me why there is an 'addendum' to a contract that has not been signed? If the government is adamant that the conditions in the addendum are going to form part of the contract then why are they not written in to the contract?

        Commenter
        wallet
        Location
        brisbane
        Date and time
        April 04, 2014, 10:30AM
        • More LNP spin Mr Goody Two Shoes the chaos reins in this state.

          Commenter
          olfella67
          Date and time
          April 04, 2014, 11:07AM

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