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Visiting Medical Officers - Contracts

MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, I have a question for Mrs Crnell as Minister for Health. Mrs Carnell, given your loud public boasts on at least two occasions that you have solved the VMO dispute, I ask you: As of today's date, how many of Canberra's visiting medical officers have signed contracts with the ACT Government?

MRS CARNELL: The VMO issue is a vexed one, as the previous Government is well aware and as Mr Connolly particularly is well aware. The issue has been on the agenda in the ACT for over two years now. I am pleased to say that, as of today, virtually all the contracts are out with VMOs and we believe that the remaining contracts will be returned within the next two weeks. We believe that just over 10 per cent have been signed and returned to the Government. The process that has been adopted - a process that has actually been very successful, unlike that of the previous Government and Mr Connolly - is that we have approached every single specialty individually and have spoken to their members about their particular needs, what they require, and also what they can do for the hospital system.

This has created a new approach to health - an approach that is cooperative, where the doctors, the VMOs and the Government are working together. It has also created a situation where more than $2m will be saved by the Government, where we will end up with a more efficient use of things like theatres and where we will have better throughput in the system. We have done that without any withdrawal of service.

Mr Berry: But how much does it cost? How many millions?

MRS CARNELL: There has been no withdrawal of service, unlike what happened under you, Mr Berry. We have not had a withdrawal of service; we have not had to fly patients out of the ACT to Sydney for important surgery; and, I state again, we have saved over $2m. Mr Connolly will be aware that under his approach he said constantly that the savings figures would be, at the upper end, $4m and, at the lower end, $0.5m.

Mr Connolly: That is outrageously untrue, and you know it to be so.

MRS CARNELL: We know that that is true, Mr Connolly, and that was the basis of the negotiations. What we have now is a situation where doctors are working with the system, with the Government, to provide services to the people of the ACT. We will end up with savings, and no patient has been flown to Sydney.

MS FOLLETT: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I note that Mrs Carnell's definition of solving a problem is solving 10 per cent of it. I think that is an interesting concept. I would like to ask Mrs Carnell: How many of the contracts represent a change from fee-for-service to sessional contracts?

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