Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3332 ..
Health Amendment Bill 2003
Mr Wood, on behalf of Mr Corbell , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.
Title read by acting clerk.
MR WOOD (Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Arts and Heritage) (10.52): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
I am pleased to present the Health Amendment Bill 2003 on behalf of Mr Corbell. By providing for specific authorisation for the purposes of the Trades Practices Act 1974, the bill is intended to enable the terms and conditions of engagement of visiting medical officers (VMOs) to be determined by collective negotiations. In the absence of this enabling legislation, any attempt by VMOs to negotiate with the ACT government on a collective basis would expose them to possible prosecution. The key rationale for the proposed return to a collective negotiation process is to progressively eliminate the inequities within and between medical specialist groups that have arisen in recent years, and to establish more consistent performance requirements for each group.
Since 1998, contracts have been individually negotiated and the resulting variances in terms and conditions have led to inequities between peer VMOs and some inconsistencies in service delivery. These include:
variations in the rate of patient throughput within and between specialist groups;
variations in the level of "out-of-hours"and on-call services provided;
variations in equivalent sessional rates paid within and between specialist groups that are difficult to justify in terms of service delivery environment, clinical complexity or labour market factors;
variation and lack of consistency in the basis of payment for services provided; and
inconsistent performance requirements within and between specialist groups.
By this simple amendment to the Health Act 1993, ACT Health will be able to negotiate collectively with the negotiating agent or agents for the VMOs. The amendment will also define the terms on which a negotiating agent may be recognised and will establish a dispute mechanism through arbitration. The identity of a negotiating agent or agents remains to be determined. The Australian Medical Association has declared its intention to become a negotiating agent, as has the VMOs Association, ACT. It is also possible that VMOs may seek other negotiating agents over time.
A remuneration policy has been developed to underpin the negotiation process. This policy will address such matters as: