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Doctor Shortage in Australian State, Overseas Recruitment Lagging, Industrial Action Threatened

by Gopalan on September 30, 2008 at 2:01 PM
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 Doctor Shortage in Australian State, Overseas Recruitment Lagging, Industrial Action Threatened

Victoria is reeling from a severe shortage of doctors. To compound the situation, overseas recruitment is lagging behind other Australian states. Meantime doctors are threatening industrial action.

Doug Travis, president of the Victorian chapter of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), said new figures show Queensland had recruited twice as many doctors as Victoria in recent years.

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He said the disparity showed Queensland was serious about recruiting and retaining staff in its public hospitals, while the Victorian government continued to sit on its hands.

"We have a population boom in Victoria, as does Queensland," Dr Travis said.

"But it's a disgrace that Queensland has been able to attract twice as many doctors even though their population is a lot smaller."
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The figures show that over the last three years, Queensland public hospitals have gained an extra 1,600 medical staff, a 35 per cent increase, while Victoria has only acquired an extra 781.

Dr Travis said the Queensland government had made medical recruitment and retention a priority.

"Victorian doctors are seeing job offers every week from Queensland. These positions are offering terms and conditions well in excess of what's on offer in Victoria."

Dr Travis also criticised the government for failing to respond to the Ministerial Review of Public Hospital Medical Staff.

The review has been with the Health Minister since November 2007 and was released publicly six months ago, Dr Travis said.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said the government would not match Queensland's health spending, which was increasing by about 14 per cent a year.

"That's a very high figure. It's not the space we want to be in, in terms of increases in recurrent spending," he said.

The AMA and the government are locked in pay negotiations and Dr Travis Tuesday warned doctors could strike if their claims for better pay and conditions were not met.

The current pay agreement between doctors and the State Government lapsed three months ago.

Doug Travis said, "We are trying our best to make the Government see reason before we have to precipitate a crisis," he said.

"We had a crisis with the nurses, we had a crisis with the teachers. This is just a recurring pattern with how the State Government deals with its employees."

He said industrial action could be necessary to resolve the dispute.

Brumby said negotiations had been constructive and the parties were working towards a resolution.

He said every state took a different approach to recruitment and Victoria's had been focused on developing more medical schools and training places.

"That will mean that there are more doctors in the future in Victoria, particularly in country areas.

"We've put money into new hospitals, we've put money into opening beds, we've put money into more nurses - I think we've got the best working conditions of any public hospital system in Australia."

A spokesman for the Health Minister, Daniel Andrews, says negotiations for a new pay agreement for doctors are continuing.

He says the Government wants to sufficiently reward them but also allow for growth to improve the health system.

Source: Medindia
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