The Australian Medical Association says the Queensland premier has inflamed an industrial dispute by threatening to hire doctors from interstate and overseas.
Campbell Newman has threatened to shop outside Queensland for new doctors, if senior medical officers who work in the state’s public hospitals quit rather than sign new work contracts.
Mr Newman has accused a doctors’ union of wanting to start a war, after more than 1200 specialists voted unanimously on Wednesday to reject amended contracts offered by the government.
With warnings of mass resignations, the premier says he has a plan B if that occurs.
“If people do choose to resign, we will have in place arrangements to replace those people and if we have to replace people from interstate or overseas … we shall do that,” he told parliament on Thursday.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said the comments had inflamed an already tense dispute, and he’s called for cool heads on both sides.
“Tipping petrol on a fire isn’t going to get the heat out of it,” he told ABC radio.
“We need some sensible heads, we need some time, and we’re trying to put this thing back together.
“It’s very hard to control people who are unhappy. They just get suspicious when time frames are rushed. We’ve just got to calm things down. There’s no need to put petrol on the fire.”
The doctors’ union, the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation, has warned that if a compromise is not reached, elective surgery in Queensland could be cancelled by July.
But Mr Newman urged doctors to see the federation for what it was – “a bunch of people who simply want a war, not a solution”.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg says he’s disappointed the union has been “talking about nuclear options to blow up the hospital system”.
But the government’s Assistant Health Minister Chris Davis has spoken out against the individual work contracts.
“In my opinion, contracts should not proceed without transparent evidence of proposed efficacy and the due diligence,” Dr Davis, a former director of geriatric medicine at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, told Wednesday night’s meeting.
The government wants doctors to sign contracts by April 30.
The Gold Coast Medical Association has told the ABC that Mr Newman’s plan B, to source doctors from outside Queensland, could fail.
Vice president Dr Stephen Withers says senior officers with specialist skills are in demand worldwide.
“I’m not sure where the premier would go to recruit those doctors from, but I certainly don’t think that comments such as that are really helpful in bringing us back to the table,” he told the broadcaster.