The drawn-out contract dispute that had threatened the future of healthcare in Queensland could be coming to a close, after the state’s senior doctors and key stakeholders appeared to reach an initial agreement.
One of the main factors behind the impasse – which had lasted for around eight months – was that Queensland’s senior doctors were unhappy with the conditions laid out by the government’s new performance-based contracts, which they felt unfairly remunerated the work and effort they put in.
However, doctors’ representatives reached an agreement last week and signed off the new contracts, following health industry networking and negotiations with industry groups such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation (ASMOF) and the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) Taskforce.
“These contracts protect the conditions of senior and visiting medical officers and facilitate new arrangements for the treatment of private patients in public hospitals, on terms fair to both private and public patients,” explained Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.
“The contracts recognise and respect the clinical skills, hard work and dedication of senior doctors.”
He added that the deadline for senior doctors to sign the new contracts has been extended to May 31, a move that was welcomed by AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton.
“This is a sensible decision that allows Queensland Health additional time to ensure that the contracts are issued correctly, and it provides SMOs and VMOs with an appropriate period to consider and negotiate the final details of their contract with their hospital and health service,” he said.
The signing of the new contracts represents an ideal milestone for healthcare in Queensland, as it secures the services of some of the state’s most experienced practitioners. Of the many concerns that had arisen out of the crisis, one of the most pressing was that a mass walkout of senior doctors would lead to a lack of training and mentoring for junior doctors, jeopardising the future of Queensland’s public hospitals.