Page 4072 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 24 November 1993

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Visiting Medical Officers Dispute

MR MOORE: Madam Speaker, my question is directed to Mr Berry, the Minister for Health. The question follows the motion in the Assembly today calling on VMOs to go to arbitration, which motion was passed without a dissenting voice. One of the VMOs who are currently on strike was reported in the Canberra Times this morning as having provided a free on-call service for the past six years and he now suggests that he will make a claim in arrears for services rendered. Firstly, are the doctors on strike actually getting paid? Secondly, what is the likelihood of such a claim being successful and how much is it likely to cost the ACT?

MR BERRY: It was very interesting that Dr Shanahan relied on the contract for the claim that he said he would make in relation to being on call. It would be nice if he stuck to that part of the arrangements that existed when the contract was formed that was about arbitration, would it not? On-call costs for six years at current rates of pay are estimated to be about $103,584.

However, in the case of Dr Shanahan, that would have to be dramatically reduced because, following the 1987 strike, he refused to sign a VMO contract. He stayed on strike, in effect. He did not sign until 1990 when Mr Humphries, over here, with the gun at the head, settled the dispute, like in a bank robbery. He settled the dispute by handing over the money - an amicable settlement. The teller says, "We now agree that you can have the money. You take the gun away from my head". Of course, that involved a settlement with a very high fee in the fee for service arrangements which applied in respect of Dr Shanahan. What I find most unfortunate about this is that somebody not only would use the community as bargaining chips in this whole debate but also would grossly misrepresent what has been going on. Dr Shanahan, if he was being fair dinkum, ought to have told the community that he had been on strike for three years, that he had squeezed some more money out of the Government, and that in fact the only person who could help him was Gary Humphries. He folded when Gary Humphries folded. That is the picture, Mr Moore.

MR MOORE: I have a supplementary question, Madam Speaker. There was another part of the question - "Are the doctors on strike getting paid at the moment?". I would like you to expand on that question if you could. Are they on strike at the moment and, if so, is ACT Health saving money that may well assist in avoiding a further budget blow-out?

MR BERRY: The doctors who do not have a contract are not being paid. Doctors who have a contract will be paid.

Mr Moore: Even though they are not working.

MR BERRY: They will be paid. If they are sessional contracts they will be paid in accordance with their sessional arrangements. If they are fee for service contracts they will be paid in accordance with those arrangements, the ones that I have offered. I have given some detail about the contracts that have been offered.

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