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What’s really going on with doctors' pay in Queensland?

For anyone with even a passing interest in how doctors get paid, all eyes are on Queensland at the moment.

The new government is well down the path of making sweeping reforms to senior doctors' contracts and while the ‘whats’ are becoming clearer the ‘whys’ remain a little on the fuzzy side.

This is probably not entirely accidental, and in the absence of a clearly stated motive by the government to initiate such a review, it can be safely assumed that it’s largely about money and control - a desire to spend less of the former, and gain more of the latter.

It will be hard to reach an outcome that is a win-win for both parties and the doctors know it, so it is no great surprise that their representative groups have been so vociferous in their protestations.

Some may be intrigued, though, by the level of interest around the rest of Australia, and even in New Zealand.

Of course, it should not be a surprise - history tells us that remuneration trends in one state can have a swift knock on effect in other jurisdictions.

Either way, it is a ballsy move by the Springborg health department to recommend such dramatic changes to the contract. Doctors are not a group to sit back and suck it up if they feel that they are being stuffed around.

Assuming the new contracts go ahead, which seems inevitable, one of two things are likely to happen. Either the other states will view this as a pilot project and, if seen to be a success, will attempt to follow suit. Alternatively, they will see it as a great opportunity to lure away talent to their own understaffed hospitals.

Springborg will, no doubt, be praying for option one, but given the scarcity and value of specialist doctors in the country, and around the world, it seems like a risky gamble.

Dr John Bethell

Director, Wavelength International

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Comments

  • Dr John Drinkwater (6 years full time rural and remote reliever) 22/11/2013 10:19pm (4 years ago)

    It will be interesting watching whether agencies such as Wave take on an advocacy role for their doctors or simply act as conduit for connecting doctors with Work Choices style individual contracts. Likewise will Locum doctors have the balls to demand higher pay for significant loss of working conditions. It can only work if agencies and doctors do this with solidarity, doubtful given the monetary motivations of both.

    I am not surprised that Queensland are the doing this first, they have for a long time paid some of the highest rates in the country for some of the worst jobs in the country blowing the Health Care budget for many years. Their last attempt some years ago was to try to impose a "B45" agreement on Locum doctors which did not succeed as not all regions "toed the line" - now they are attempting to force current employees protected by "awards" and enterprise bargaining agreements onto individual contracts where doctors will only lose, and ultimately patient care compromised.

    This has the potential to be advantageous for doctors, but with industrial ignorance and impotence most doctors will be trampled by Queensland Health who have an army of self interested paper pushers and legal advisors who will make sure, as you have said, Queensland Health will spend less money and gain more control.

  • anaestricks 30/03/2014 8:39pm (4 years ago)

    If the QLD government won't return to the table and actually negotiate with the doctors and their representatives the risk is mass resignation and thence likely complete collapse of the health system. Without senior doctors the system simply cannot work. For the sake of Queenslanders and their health this simply cannot be allowed to happen. Locum agencies such as yours can be an immense help by refusing to advertise and recruit locums for QLD health so that the government is forced to stop its current bullying tactics and return to proper negotiation. I sincerely all locum companies do the right thing despite the opportunity to make a lot if money out if this potential catastrophe.

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