The Health News – 6 March 2014

Overview

  • In QLD, a senior practitioner of the Gold Coast University Hospital says the government’s planned individual work contracts could result in a severe shortage of specialist doctors.
  • The Senate has censured Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash following the conflict-of-interest claims that arose after the shutdown of a health department website.
  • A recent report has shown that medical procedures performed in Tasmanian hospitals are costing significantly more than other states.

Health News on HPR.

Doctor fears individual work contracts may spark specialists shortage – by Elise Worthington
In QLD, a senior practitioner of the Gold Coast University Hospital says the government’s planned individual work contracts could result in a severe shortage of specialist doctors. Dr John Richards, also speaking on behalf of the Senior Medical Staff Association, said many Gold Coast doctors are already assessing the move to private practice, or relocating interstate. He said
“The depth in the system isn’t there to cope with significant resignation numbers or people leaving and in some sub-specialties there’s only three or four people offering that service, so once one or two go it becomes untenable. A very reluctant step for me to have to leave but if I’ve stayed past the middle of the year my income will probably halve and I don’t know what my future will be and I will probably be forced to look elsewhere.” An MP from the Gold Coast has addressed state parliament regarding the contracts conditions which he described as onerous. Dr Alex Douglas, member for Gaven, said “The remuneration can’t be calculated, doctors can be arbitrarily dismissed … rosters changed without notice, no overtime or on-call payments issued unless there’s extreme exemptions, further directives can be issued – which you can’t challenge. Patients won’t be admitted and chaos will ensue when emergency departments overflow. Patient deaths and major adverse outcomes are likely. Junior staff won’t be supervised. Trainee surgeons and physicians will lose training as accreditation is withdrawn, years of training gone – and if this escalates the rebuilding of the human infrastructure of Queensland Health will be horribly painful.”

Fiona Nash censured amid fallout over conflict of interest claims – no author listed
The Senate has censured Assistant Health Minsiter Fiona Nash following the conflict-of-interest claims that arose after the shutdown of a health department website. Yesterday the senate was in favour of a motion prompting Senator Nash to detail what measures her department had implemented, if any, to protect against conflicts of interest such as that of her chief of staff Alistair Furnival, who was found to be holding shares in a lobby group that represented multinational food companies, and recently resigned after questions were raised on the issue. But of the motion, Senator Nash claimed that providing such information would breach privacy. Labor Senator John Faulkner disagreed and thinks the public deserve the truth. He said “To treat questions in the Parliament and parliamentary committees with contempt is to treat the right of Australians to know how their government acts with contempt. Before the vote Liberal frontbencher Mitch Fifield sided with the assistant health minister and lobbied the senate to oppose the vote, and said “It is not justified, it is not warranted, the charges against Senator Nash have not been proved. She has taken every opportunity to give an account of herself.”

Health report shows big difference in surgery costs – no author listed
A recent report has shown that medical procedures performed in Tasmanian hospitals are costing significantly more than other states. The report by the Grattan Institute found a hip replacement cost between 20 and 30 thousand dollars, and said that such wide ranges show the system as being cost inefficient. Author of the report Stephen Duckett said “There’s a hospital in Tasmania which is delivering these services, treating patients at a much lower cost that other hospitals. Why can’t every hospital be in the same boat, and it’s up to the state government, the state health department to ensure that occurs.” The leader of the Tasmanian Doctors Lobby says that data showing a disparity in cost of treatment in Tasmania compared to other states tells us nothing new, while the AMA Tasmanian branch spokesperson John Davis said “We won’t cut the cost of anything until we redesign our health system.”