Together Medical Officers Portal

15 May meeting update

Posted by Alex Scott on May 14, 2012

We thought it could not get worse but it just did - and the time for members to get involved and act collectively has arrived!

QH brought a list of new claims to the table this week – claims to strip clauses out of the EB and to replace others with a 'trust us to manage properly'. There is no doubt whatsoever that a major push is on to remove most hard won conditions and to impose substantial changes on RMOs and SMOs that are not being asked of other groups.

New wages policy

QH proposes to apply the government's new wages policy despite the bargaining framework for MOCA3 being approved under the old policy.
The new policy is for a total of 3% (1.6% CPI + 1.4% for measurable productivity measures, efficiencies, and cashable savings). The total value of the agreement can be no more than a 3% increase to current costs so any changes that any party (QH or doctors) want to make that are not cost neutral must come out of the 3%.
Together does not consider this to be fair or reasonable particularly when there are significant problems with the public health system and current employment conditions for doctors.
These problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Inappropriate medical staffing and rostering to meet clinical service demand.
  • Unsustainable workloads arising from inappropriate staffing and undersupply of beds.
  • Eroding value of entitlements.
  • Funding shortfalls.
  • A dog's breakfast of dinosaur private practice arrangements.

We strongly hold to the view that government needs to invest in fixing these problems just as it has had to invest in fixing its payroll debacle. Doctors should certainly not have to personally bear the cost of QH's neglect in terms of employment practices.

Managerial prerogative unleashed on doctors

Sadly QH's way of dealing with the problems is not to invest in a sustainable future but to screw things down tighter, minimise consultation and maximise managerial prerogative – and this at a time when there are so many examples of why we should not trust managers.

By way of example, QH wants managerial prerogative to implement individual 'requests' for night shifts for SMOs without consultation with the workgroup or union, and to stretch a doctor workforce that currently provides ordinary hours clinical services across a span of 55 hours a week  (plus significant overtime demands) to a span of 112 ordinary hours a week without any commitments to sustainable staffing levels, workload management or best practice rostering.

With an already stretched workforce, this is a recipe for disaster not to mention doctor resignations from the Queensland public hospital system. A significant number of members are already telling us they're preparing to leave.

We offered to help

For the past 4 months Together has tried to reach agreement on a fair replacement agreement for doctors. The tragedy is that our members want to partner with QH in making necessary changes in a sustainable way but that offer has been resoundingly rejected.

We have reached a deadlock with departmental negotiators and have invited the Director- General and Minister to meet with us to break it but apparently they have other priorities.

Members will be wondering what message that rejection sends. Is it that QH does not trust its doctors, does not care about its doctors, is trying to get blood out of stone, gives no credit to its doctors for holding an imperfect system together or for improving its bottom line by hundreds of millions of dollars through their 'private practice' earnings donated to the State?

It is hard to believe that the sticking points to reaching agreement include commonsense measures such as:

  • Maintaining the value of the current package by building in cost of living adjustments – something agreed to recently for other health professionals.
  • Treating doctors as partners in the provision of public health services rather than a resource to be exploited - particularly in relation to proposed new private practice arrangements and the  implementation of  greatly extended hours.
  • Adequate staffing for the implementation of extended hours in a sustainable manner which also provides a reasonable work/life balance and best practice rostering. Extended hours without these will see mistakes of the past repeated and it will be just a matter of time before there is another 2005-like crisis in recruitment and retention of doctors , deaths from doctors under pressure, or the collapse of vital services such as  EDs.
  • Ensuring clinical managers of medical professionals are not only competent but are provided with adequate resources to enable them to meet key performance indicators.
  • Retaining, not scrapping, successful incentives for working shiftwork (ED 25%) and incentives for doctors to take positions in regional areas that have recruitment and retention problems.

There is no question that now is the time to get involved. You can do three things right now:

  1. Click on this link now to sign the petition to Queensland Health.
  2. Send this message on to your non-member colleagues and ask them to sign the petition and join their union. We need every member we can get and all of them calling for a fair deal for doctors.
  3. Talk to your colleagues and fellow members about what is going on, stay tuned for further updates and be prepared to take further action if required.


Address any comments about this message to: jenny.cannon@together.org.au. If you are not a member, join your union today.