Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 633 ..
MR STANHOPE: My question is to the Minister for Health. The Opposition shares the Government's concern at the exorbitant contracts held by VMOs to Canberra's public hospitals, and broadly supports the Minister's efforts to achieve budget savings in renegotiating those contracts. However, will the Minister give an undertaking that he will not support any backdown in negotiations with VMOs that would see compromise to three vital aims: An improvement to the ratio between salaried medical officers and VMOs; a move towards fee for service over sessional fees; and a reduction in rates paid - - -
Ms Carnell: No; it is the other way round. It is movement to sessional over fee for service.
MR STANHOPE: You are quite right. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Mr Moore: Would you mind just going through those again for me.
MR STANHOPE: Will you give a commitment to an improvement to the ratio between salaried medical officers and VMOs; a move towards sessional fees over fee for service - thank you, Chief Minister; and a reduction in rates paid to VMOs, at least to levels paid in New South Wales?
MR MOORE: I thank Mr Stanhope for the question. Indeed, the instruction given by the Government, before I was a member of the Government, to the negotiating team was that we would seek to align both VMOs and salaried medical officers with New South Wales. I think members ought to understand that that will give the VMOs a significant benefit over almost anywhere else in Australia. In fact, New South Wales levels are 70 per cent higher than the Australian average.
One of the questions that were put to me - not by Mr Stanhope, but by others - was, "Are you not worried about doctors flocking out of Canberra in order to do better elsewhere?". I am not the slightest bit worried, because there is no better elsewhere. We have been paying the highest amount. The instruction that has been given to the negotiating team is to align with New South Wales. That would mean an improved ratio between salaried medical doctors and VMOs. The instruction is to move from fee for service to sessional. However, it is also important to understand that the negotiators must have maximum flexibility to negotiate individual contracts with individual doctors, and that flexibility will remain.
Additionally, we have advertised in the national press for salaried medical doctors in some of the areas. In those areas, we have had a number of quite positive responses. So, if it is the case that some of the VMOs feel that they do not want to sign the contract that has been offered to them, we do have other options. In making the decision as to