Queensland’s health minister says he’s confident a new clause in senior doctors’ contracts will end a long stand-off, but specialists are yet to accept it.
Eleventh-hour concessions from the Queensland government in its long-running dispute with doctors in the public health system could still fail to avert mass resignations.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg says he’s confident senior medical officers (SMOs) will be happy with new clauses in their contracts addressing key concerns.
The government has agreed to only allow changes to contracts if they don’t disadvantage SMOs and will introduce a new arbitration system that lets doctors access the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
Doctors will also have a say over roster changes, whether they are transferred to other hospitals and what key performance indicators involve.
“Everything that was reasonably asked has been reasonably delivered,” Mr Springborg told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’ll now be a case of how individual or collective doctors react to it.”
Australian Medical Association (AMA) national president Steve Hambleton said while he was pleased the government had given some ground, doctors would still need to approve of the new clause when they meet on Wednesday night.
Dr Hambleton said the new clauses would not be enough, adding the AMA wanted the Hospital and Health Boards Act amended so the director-general would have less power to change contracts.
“I don’t think it’s going to be sufficient,” he told AAP.
“The government has lost the trust of the doctors by the way they’ve gone about this.”
Dr Hambleton said senior specialists could still resign en masse if their demands were not met.
Mr Springborg ruled out changing industrial relations laws, disappointing doctors, but said he would be prepared to revisit the Hospital and Health Boards Act.
But he said doctors would need to have their contracts signed by April 30.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Mr Springborg was portraying himself as a “white knight in shining armour” by introducing the new clauses at the 11th hour following months of tension.
“The crisis was the minister’s own making,” she told parliament.
The government had earlier argued the new contracts increased severance pay, stopped doctors from being transferred across the state and gave them common law options in dismissal matters.