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Workforce focus in Health and Disability Review pleases doctors

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A focus on workforce in the Health and Disability System Review has been welcomed by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), but it cautions against any unsettling industrial changes.

In an interview with The Specialist, the quarterly magazine produced by ASMS, review panel Chair Heather Simpson suggests it might be desirable for Senior Medical Officers (SMOs) to be covered by the same employment agreements as their junior colleagues, Resident Medical Officers (RMOs). At present the two groups have separate multi-employer collective agreements negotiated by their respective unions. "You’ve got different collectives between your SMOs and your RMOs so if we’re expecting people to work more in teams across specialties and in an integrated system then their working conditions are going to have to be related in some way, says Ms Simpson."

"How, I don’t know. But if you’re trying to make any sort of system work and you haven’t thought about how the people work together then it’s unlikely to be effective."

But ASMS Executive Director Ian Powell says a single collective agreement for senior doctors and the doctors they train would not work.

"Senior doctors are responsible for training and supervising their younger colleagues, and a single collective agreement covering doctors who train and supervise and doctors who are being trained would not be practical."

"The after-hours rosters worked by resident doctors (RMOs) are much more complex than those of senior doctors."

"Nor is there much to gain from what would be a significant upheaval."

Ms Simpson says the health workforce and their unions are integral to the future shape of health. She plans to talk to unions as part of the review.

Ian Powell says public hospitals face a number of significant issues critical to their ability to provide quality health care, and senior doctors look forward to discussing these with Ms Simpson.

"The most important issue from our perspective is grappling with the senior doctor shortfall of roughly 20%. A well equipped senior doctor workforce is essential for training the next generation of doctors and fostering teamwork and patient centred care," he says. Ms Simpson and her review panel members were formally established by Health Minister Dr David Clark last year to look at big structural questions in health. The panel’s interim report is due in August, and its final report in March 2020. The full story published on pages 4-6 of The Specialist can be read here:

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