Doctors on the brink of striking

VISITING medical officers to the Sunshine Coast are on the brink of industrial action which could result in all public elective surgery in the region cancelled.

That was the grim warning from Queensland Australian Medical Association president Dr Mason Stevenson yesterday.

The Coolum Beach GP said that following a two-year dispute with the State Government over a new agreement, the ongoing Queensland Health payroll debacle was looming as the final blow for VMOs.

Since March, thousands of Queensland Health workers have been overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all. Some staff who have either died or resigned continue to be paid.

“VMOs are not in the habit of examining their pay slips fortnightly,” Dr Stevenson said.

“Many wait until the end of the tax year and are now discovering they are severely out of pocket.

“It has now become a double whammy situation that is likely to result in industrial action if not rectified.”

Dr Stevenson said the last time VMOs withdrew services on the Sunshine Coast was in 2005 during the medical indemnity crisis.

“Nambour General Hospital could only conduct elective surgery,” he said.

“They (Queensland Health) may have extra staff now but the effect would still be disastrous.”

Dr Stevenson said there had been a spike in doctors looking for employment opportunities outside Queensland Health because of the Queensland Health payroll issues.

More than 80 per cent of all Queensland doctors have been affected by the bungled rollout of the new payroll system.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Paul Lucas said arrangements were in place so that all affected workers, including doctors, can access immediate cheque payments at their place of work if they are not properly paid.

Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District southern cluster manager Jackie Hanson said Queensland Health had received no notification of strike action by VMOs.

“VMOs provide a very important and valuable service to the hospitals and the general community,” she said.

“Queensland Health greatly values the contribution of VMOs to the health system through their dedication and devotion to their patients.”

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