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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 27 November 2014) . . Page.. 4190 ..

Amendments agreed to.

Bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.29 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

Hospitals—visiting medical officers

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Health and concerns contract doctors or visiting medical officers, VMOs, in Canberra public hospitals. Minister, in 2013-14 ACT Health spent $111 million employing doctors. Some were on staff and some were independent contractors or VMOs. In the eight years you have been the health minister there has been a steady decrease in the proportion of VMOs at Canberra public hospitals compared to salaried or staff doctors. In that time staff doctor budgets have increased 100 per cent more than the budget for VMOs. Minister, is this eight-year reduction in the proportion of VMOs a planned policy of the government?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. In short, I refer the Leader of the Opposition to the opinion piece that is published in the Canberra Times today on this exact matter, and goes to the explanation that as the health system grows the need to employ a whole range of health professionals in various roles also grows. There has been an increase in the numbers of VMOs over my time as health minister. There are 198 VMOs employed in the system now and 237 staff specialists. But essentially it is an employment mechanism.

There is not a good or bad doctor; there are staff specialists and there are VMOs. VMOs are private contractors; staff specialists are public servants. That is the difference. It is an employment mechanism. They have the same training, they are members of the same college. Everything about them is the same. Their professional capacity and skills are the same. From now and long into the future there will be a need to have a mix of both—those that work in private practice and supplement their private practice with public work, and those that dedicate their time to public work. Any health system in the country operates like that. Our traditional dependence on VMOs is changing as the system grows, but there is a healthy number of both doctors, and numbers of doctors are increasing all the time.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Hanson.

MR HANSON: The minister seems to have stumbled to an end there. Minister, before increasing the proportion of staff doctors, did the government do any modelling to show that the $111 million spent on doctors is better spent on staff doctors compared to VMOs?

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