ACT Health doesn't support doctors' development: union
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ACT Health doesn't support doctors' development: union

Some ACT Health medical staff are forced to "stagnate" in the system because they are not supported to undergo education and professional development, the union representing doctors says.

Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation executive officer Stephen Crook said there was a slow and convoluted process for approving ongoing education within ACT Health.

Canberra Hospital

Canberra Hospital

Photo: Karleen Minney

He was speaking in response to an opinion piece penned by Canberra cardiologist Dr Arnagretta Hunter, who said there was not enough experience beyond the ACT among local doctors.

Mr Crook said the majority, if not all, of specialists in Canberra had received training across multiple locations including leading facilities overseas before coming to Canberra.

But he said once they settled in Canberra, they were "forced to stagnate by the systems in place".

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"[The federation] has been advocating for a much more streamlined system but having ACT Health move forward with timely and simple processes is like watching a glacier melt," Mr Crook said.

"They refuse to have a simple system in the enterprise agreement, and insist it will be subject to an administrative review.

"Administrative reviews often never happen or ACT Health hope they will be forgotten in the mire of administrative policies and delaying tactics they are masters at."

He said mental health staff had the most trouble getting education and development approved.

"And they wonder why they have had trouble obtaining staff," Mr Crook said.

"One of the many items to be fixed  - which would be easy for anybody else - would be to have a simple two-step process for supporting medical staff development in a dynamic world of change in treatments and systems.

"It is becoming almost impossible for many staff to navigate with hours of paperwork and documents to be completed and processed and then having it processed so they can try and keep up to date."

Mr Crook said no other state had so much red tape to go through to access an entitlement, which meant the ACT lost doctors to other states.

"The new proposed structure ticks all the rhetoric but that is not the problem," he said.

"It is the management that likes to cause problems and systems that stifle progress in an efficient and timely manner."

An ACT Health spokeswoman said doctors at ACT Health are entitled to apply for appropriate education and training opportunities for their professional development needs.

She said the issues raised by Mr Crook related to enterprise bargaining discussions, in which it was submitted the agreement should include a provision that doctors’ training applications would be automatically accepted if the application was not approved within seven days.

“It was established during discussions that this issue should not form part of the (agreement) and should be dealt with through operational and administrative procedures,” the spokeswoman said.

“In addition, it is not appropriate for public money to be spent on programs that in some cases include international flights without appropriate approval.

“However, ACT Health is committed to working towards improving processes where changes need to be made. This is ongoing work.”

The spokeswoman said 697 applications from senior doctors were approved last financial year, while 384 had already been approved this financial year.

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times with a special focus on health issues