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Top doctor quits over pay comments

| 02.12,11. 02:25 PM |


Top doctor quits over pay comments

 December 02, 2011

ONE surgeon has quit Queensland Health over the Minister's comments on the paypackets of visiting medical officers, while others are considering their positions.
Toowoomba surgeon Tim Porter yesterday announced he had resigned from Queensland Health, angry over the State Government's "contemptible" treatment of VMOs.

He said he knew of at least one other colleague who was considering his position. Other VMOs are waiting until after the state election.

Dr Porter, who will leave the public system in February, said recent comments by Health Minister Geoff Wilson referring to the paypackets of VMOs triggered his decision.

About 850 Queensland VMOs doctors who divide their time between public and private hospitals have not had a pay rise since March 2008. Their last workplace agreement with the Bligh Government expired in February 2009.

SOME of Queensland Health's lowest paid workers will receive $30-a-week wage rise under an in-principle agreement with the Australian Workers' Union. ..End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
In a recent interview, Mr Wilson repeated several times that VMOs were paid about $130,000 a year for a "part-time job of about 15 hours a week" without reference to the costs of running a practice.

"The Minister's attempt to invoke petty jealousy and resentment by repeating what on the face of it sounds like a lot of money without acknowledging that it reflected our costs was disappointing to say the least and invoked in me only anger," Dr Porter said.

"Every VMO is a small business that employs a number of staff, rents offices and pays insurance and all the usual expenses of running a business.

"In my case, I employ six people. My costs and remuneration from the department mean that I work for about $20 per hour ... as a VMO during normal working hours. Of course, we also do after-hours callbacks to support the junior doctors, which boosts our remuneration.

"Such cases are, however, often stressful and difficult and I don't know any VMO who would not willingly forego this aspect of the job."

Dr Porter, pictured, said he had become frustrated by government "stonewalling" over negotiating a new VMO agreement and Mr Wilson's attitude "crystalised" his intention to resign.

"They treat us with contempt," he said.

Mr Wilson has repeatedly insisted that any new VMO agreement must include productivity initiatives but Dr Porter believes "bureaucratic nonsense" within the public system is making doctors less productive.

"In the private system, I'm my own boss," he said.

"I believe I'm much more effective with my time."

VMO chairman Ross Cartmill said given the government's failure to negotiate a new agreement, he could offer Dr Porter no rational reason why he should stay on.

"I understand the exasperation of the individual," he said.

He said key to any VMO agreement would be incentives to entice specialists, such as Dr Porter, to work in provincial city hospitals.

Queensland Health deputy director-general John Cairns said the department had proposed to the VMO committee and the AMA a binding arbitration process before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

"The ball is entirely in their court and any VMO who is concerned about the delays should take those concerns up with their negotiators," Mr Cairns said.

The Courier-Mail

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