AMAQ urges doctors not to sign COVID-19 public/private contracts

30 Apr 2020


COVID_19_contracts

AMA QUEENSLAND URGES DOCTORS NOT TO SIGN CONTRACT IN CURRENT FORM

AMA Queensland is aware that several private hospitals have issued contracts for doctors to consider for work under the COVID public-private partnership.

ISSUES OF CONCERN

We would like to flag several issues of concern regarding these contracts.

A clear imperative for AMA Queensland is for private practicing doctors to be facilitated back into their usual work, setting their own fees, as quickly as possible.

The current low COVID-19 pandemic numbers and idle capacity in the private system creates a different circumstance in negotiating the public-private contracts. Work that will variably flow through this mechanism is not now related to managing COVID-19 patients, but rather more routine, elective work shifted from the public system into the private system.

FEES

Further to our ‘principles’ document to help guide doctors in considering the COVID public-private contracts, AMA Queensland has made it very clear that a fee-for-service model is most appropriate in this regard, as has been utilised in the Surgery Connect model, given the nature of this work.

A VMO salary or similar arrangement was only entertained as a very temporary, minority practice for key personnel who might be required to remain on campus for prolonged periods or on-call if the COVID-19 care requirements escalated. This need has not eventuated, therefore AMA Queensland does not envisage a VMO salary-type arrangement as being necessary and urges doctors to consider very carefully the possible negative outcomes that might occur should they sign a salaried contract under any terms with a private hospital.

RISKS

There is considerable risk for non-GP Private Specialists to be forced into indentured, salaried arrangements with private hospitals and AMA Queensland does not regard this as being in the best interests of patients, hospitals nor individual doctors. Although ‘Surgery Connect’ is suspended while the COVID public-private partnership remains, an appropriate and fair fee-for-service model can still be employed and should be the style of any credible contract doctors are asked to consider, not a time based VMO rate as quoted.

Please note - we’ve been advised that in contracts you are being asked to sign there is a reference to remuneration being equivalent to fees calculated 'in accordance with the Australian Medical Association Enterprise Agreement'. We wish to advise that in Queensland there is no such thing as an 'Australian Medical Association Enterprise Agreement' and we reinforce our advice NOT to sign these contracts in their current forms.

AMA QUEENSLAND SUPPORT

It is crucial doctors protect their future practice and independence by making careful decisions now. It may be that less work and income will be the consequence in the short-term, but this is far preferable than greater intrusion into practice from institutions, funds and Government forevermore into the future.

Be reassured the AMA at both state and federal levels is trying very hard to get an orderly, safe return to normal work as soon as possible to support and restore practices for private sector members.

Should you wish to contact AMA Queensland before you sign any contract or should you have any queries or concerns, please contact us on (07) 3872 2222 or covid19@amaq.com.au


Published: 30 Apr 2020