Page 605 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 9 March 2011
in the final stages of being filled—was that at the registrar level there were 15 vacancies. I think there were 12 offers of employment out at that point in time, a couple of weeks ago.
Junior doctors work different arrangements. In some areas of the hospital they work longer shifts—14 to 16 hours. They can, over a one-week period, do the majority of their hours in that week and then they have a period of time off. For some doctors that suits them. Others prefer to work shorter arrangements and those are negotiated with the doctors. I do not think I can give you an average weekly. They are employed for 80 hours a fortnight as part of the standard public service arrangements, but many of them will work those hours in different arrangements negotiated locally with their clinical director.
I have to say that this year we tried to over-recruit to all of our junior doctor positions. That was to allow some freedom to provide relief arrangements when junior doctors need to take some time off. That has not historically been how we have funded the junior positions. This year we are trying to make an extra effort to have more doctors than the positions required, but, like every other health system around the country, and indeed around the world, we are struggling to fill all of those vacancies 100 per cent of the time.
I expect in a couple of years when the extra medical students graduate from medical school that it will be a problem of too many doctors and not enough places. That is what we are all trying to gear to now: how do we provide the extra clinical training hours that we need to provide when there is going to be an oversupply of junior doctors? That will be the real challenge. At this point in time we remain just under-recruited, but we are doing everything we can to make sure that we get those positions filled and that each doctor that works in the public health system has been through a very thorough checking process.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Doszpot?
MR DOSZPOT: Minister, how can we have confidence in your advice to the Assembly when it has been reported in the Canberra Times that doctors are discouraged from recording their full hours?
MS GALLAGHER: This is an issue I discuss regularly with the AMA. Because these issues are managed locally in local clinical units, there have been some complaints from junior doctors about ability to access study leave and ability to get some time off. In relation to the concern that was relayed in the paper, I had not heard that one specifically. But we established, in recognition of some of the issues that the junior doctors felt they were experiencing, a junior doctor consultative committee with the AMA to talk through these issues and make sure we were responding. Certainly, there is an EBA. There are very clear arrangements and operating procedures in place. If there are problems locally, they need to be managed.
There is a bit of an issue between ASMOF, which represents a lot of the medical staff, being seen as the bosses’ union, I guess, and the AMA have a number of junior doctors they represent. I think the junior doctors feel sometimes that the AMA represents their interests better and that when they have pursued issues through