An audit of doctors working for Queensland Health has been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission amid concerns of rorting.
Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission has been asked to investigate if senior medical officers rorted the system.
Auditor-General Andrew Greaves investigated 88 of the state’s 2000-plus Queensland Health senior medical officers (SMOs) and found eight were treating private patients in a public hospital and retained all the income, contrary to their contracts.
Unions and Labor say the report is being overplaying to silence or soften doctors into signing WorkChoices-style employment contracts, but Health Minister Lawrence Springborg says new contracts are needed to restore accountability.
The report also found seven SMOs didn’t attend work during their rostered hours for more than 30 days, and doctors who had been on leave were paid $500,000 for overtime since 2010.
It is the second Auditor-General’s report into Right of Private Practice arrangements introduced by the previous Labor government in 2006.
Under the scheme, SMOs are paid an allowance to treat private patients in public hospitals.
Mr Greaves’ initial report, handed down in July 2013, found that while the program was supposed to be cost-neutral, it actually cost the public system at least $804 million during the past decade.
Mr Springborg says the report should not reflect on the overwhelming majority of senior doctors but reveals a system open to abuse by a minority.
“Asking doctors to sign the new contracts which reward performance and deliver improved patient outcomes will help us end duplication, reduce waste and restore accountability,” he said.
Public service union Together wants those who are guilty sent to jail, but doctor groups say the report reveals mismanagement at Queensland Health, rather than widespread rorting.
The acting president of Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation Queensland, Dr Stephen Morrison, says doctors have long said the present system lacks transparency and clear guidelines.
“What is very clear is that the Queensland government should not be attempting to use this important report as a convenient excuse to push doctors onto individual contracts that would, in turn, drive doctors out of the system and put the needs of patients at risk.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller, who was parliamentary secretary to the health minister in 2006, wasn’t aware of any problems while Labor was in power.
“Doctors are notorious for not filing in paperwork, but we have a system in place where this LNP government has gone around and sacked a lot of the administrative staff, so their hands are not exactly clean on this matter, either.”
Mr Greaves’ report has been referred to the CMC to consider if there has been misconduct.