Qld Health Contracts – cautiously moving ahead
20 May 2014
By Daniel White
The last couple of months have seen a significant escalation in tension between doctors and Qld Health over the terms of the proposed contracts for SMO and VMO practitioners.
With the real and credible threat of mass resignations threatening to cripple Qld Health, it is positive to see that further negotiations between Qld Health and key medical groups arrived at an 'in-principle' agreement in mid April. While the revised deadline to have signed contacts returned by 31 May 2014 has not yet fallen due, it appears that doctors are cautiously moving ahead with signing the revised contracts. The contract negotiations have been hard fought and unfortunately a significant amount of goodwill has been burnt and confidence in the Qld Health system undermined.
In dealing with a wide range of specialists working within Qld Health, Shadforth has seen growing concerns from clients who were seriously considering the financial implications of resigning from Qld Health.
With the revised Qld Health contracts released in mid-April, the AMAQ President Dr Steve Hambleton provided a 'in-principle' agreement that a satisfactory resolution had been reached. The key changes incorporated into the contracts included:
- A robust and binding dispute resolution and unfair dismissal process;
- Removal of the terms 'profitability', 'viability' and 'reputation' from the termination clause;
- Redrafting of the contract to incorporate in the addendum terms into the contract itself;
- The ability to decline a transfer or shift roster if reasonable grounds exist;
- The establishment of a Contract Advisory Committee for future collective contract negotiations.
While the risk of mass resignations appears to have been avoided, the corresponding loss of trust and uncertainty around specific financial implications has lead to a slow acceptance rate. This cautious acceptance is probably best illustrated through a recent ballot hosted by doctors as part of the Together and ASMOF groups. The result of this ballot was that 53% voted in favour of the contracts, 34% voted against, and the residual 13% were unsure or abstained.
While hardly an overwhelming acceptance, it does indicate that a platform now exists to rebuild the trust and confidence with Qld Health. In the words of Dr Hambleton "The community wants this dispute settled, and the SMOs and VMOs want to get on with what they do best – treating and caring for patients."
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