A meeting of doctors in Queensland has voted to reject the state government’s pay deal, but will keep negotiating for now, delaying mass walk-outs.
More than a thousand senior doctors working in public hospitals across Queensland have voted to reject the state government’s offer on individual contracts.
The unanimous vote of no confidence in the government’s last-minute compromise came after Queensland Health Director-General Ian Maynard acknowledged their concerns at a crowded gathering in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
“The concerns that I’ve been told you had were consistent wherever you worked in the state,” he told the crowd of about 1200 doctors, including one holding a placard, “Trust Gone, Goodwill Lost”.
Senior medical officers (SMOs) had met with Mr Maynard and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg last week to express reservations about working conditions.
“They helped me to understand the impact that these contracts are having … in your lives, the distractions, the anxiety that’s being created,” Mr Maynard said.
But Mr Maynard asked the doctors to examine the government’s new offer as it pushes to have contracts signed by April 30.
“I’m not going to tell you to sign a contract; I’m not going to encourage you to sign a contract although I really hope you do,” he said.
After a two-hour meeting, the doctors belonging to the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation and the Together public service union voted to reject the “entirely inadequate” new proposal from the government.
The government has agreed for no disadvantage tests to be included in new contracts and to allow doctors limited access to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).
They also unanimously backed resolutions to continue negotiations with the government and for legislation to be revisited that removed the QIRC from disputes resolutions in favour of a hospital board-approved mediator.
Doctors also want the rollout of individual contracts stopped and for doctors who had resigned in protest to be allowed back into the Queensland health system if a better agreement was reached with the government.
Peter Boyd, a Cairns-based hospital gastroenterologist, told the gathering that 100 specialists from far north Queensland were prepared to resign en masse.
“That represents virtually all the anaesthetists, all the ED (emergency department) positions, nearly all the obstetricians, remarkably most of the physicians … nearly all of our psychiatrists, most of the orthopaedic surgeons and especially, all of the SMOs at Innisfail Hospital and the majority at Atherton, Tully and Mossman,” he said.
Assistant Health Minister Chris Davis, a former doctor whose teenage step-daughter Jessica Lindley-Jones was killed in a weekend car crash, received a standing ovation after he empathised with the doctors.
“Refrain from entering into any contract with a colleague or organisation which may conflict with professional integrity, clinical independence or your primary obligation to your patient,” he said, referring to the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA’s) code of ethics.