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Transcript - AMA interview on 4BC

20 March 2014

BEN DAVIS:

As Nick Wiggins just mentioned, debate over the doctors contract issue ramped-up in Parliament today. Last night 1,300 doctors voted to reject the Government's latest contract offer. Today the Premier had plenty to say on the issue:

AUDIO SEGMENT - PREMIER CAMPBELL NEWMAN IN PARLIAMENT:

A bunch of people who simply want a war, not a solution. We want a solution for patients. That if people do choose to resign we will have in place arrangements to replace those people and if we have to recruit people from interstate or overseas, Madame Speaker, we shall do that, because this is a great State to bring up your family, it's a great State to practice medicine. Dr Steve Hambleton, behind closed doors, said 'You have addressed our concerns'.

BEN DAVIS:

Well Dr Hambleton from the AMA is on the line with me now. Dr Hambleton, firstly - the Premier's pointed the finger at you. Did you say that behind closed doors?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well I think the Premier's got to remember that there's 3,500 doctors in Queensland that need to accept the offer and look I can acknowledge that the Minister worked very hard on Monday, the DG worked very hard for the last week, but for the last six months, trust really has been lost and it's only in the last little while that we've actually seen some change. What the doctors asked me to do was open the door for them, get them back in the room which is exactly what we did. There was no point in going alone, we had to take the unions and all the other representatives of doctors with them and we started negotiating again on the terms of the contract. Everybody can see that those terms are unfair, but there's been some movement. A lot of those things that were unfair were attempted to be addressed by the Director-General and by the Minister so, yes there was movement, there definitely was change and doctors do need to look at those changes and look at...

BEN DAVIS:

Getting movement, getting movement and addressing concerns - are they two different things?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well yes, I mean I think there's a relationship breakdown here. The only way to build that relationship is to actually do the sorts of things that we've done. I mean the doctors have said last night they want to see legislation change. Well that's exactly what was offered on Tuesday by the Minister, so we've got movement on legislation change on Tuesday, we've got movement on the clauses in the contract which are unfair on Monday. Two days later the doctors get together and of course they are still remembering the six months of no action. So we've got an issue of trust here. It's very hard to rebuild that in a very short period of time. Look, I...

BEN DAVIS:

I'm guessing repeating conversations that happened behind closed doors and airing them publically, that doesn't help the trust issue either, does it?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well, you know, I'm not the problem, frankly. It's the trust the doctors have. I'm actually trying to get the two parties in the same room. I thought the Director-General was very brave to front the meeting last night. I think he took a lot of courage to stand up before those doctors and say "I've worked hard, I want to make this work" and I think the doctors have said the same thing to me, they want to make it work, they want to be able to treat the people of Queensland, they want to make sure that managers can’t dictate to them what they should do and we’ve seen the detriment that occurs when that happens. So you know the good thing about this thing in Queensland apart from name-calling and 'he said, she said' was that doctors want it to work, the Minister wants it to work, the DG wants it to work. For the first time in the last few days we've had some real traction about an opportunity to make it work. Let's not throw coals on the fire or petrol on the fire, let's have a look at what the DG said just before he left the meeting last night and that is 'Tomorrow morning, if the wording's not right, let's get it right'. You know, he's focused on getting an outcome here and we don't want to...

BEN DAVIS:

What's the Premier on about, do you have any idea? I mean, 'We have a war on our hands'. He’s using, you know, do you have a war on your hands?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

I think those words were used in a public meeting yesterday by one of the unions. Look, the reality is that was tapping into the emotion of what's happened in Queensland over the last six to nine months. I remember passing a motion of full support at federal council for the doctors in Queensland in November last year, so this has dragged on from November right through til March. It should never have got to this.

BEN DAVIS:

You mentioned the unions there - the Premier actually said this has been 'hijacked' by unions.

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well, the unions have had more people join them, more people actually send money to them than ever has happened before. It's an extraordinary period of time that medical practitioners who normally quietly go about their business have found that collecting together and supporting a union they feel is their only choice when they weren't listened to and frankly when we saw...the Health Minister said 'Come and talk to us' and we took that opportunity and we opened the door again and of course by that time you've got a unionised workforce, you've got senior medical officers who are already planning their futures about 'what do I do if I can't work in this State any longer?'. We had to put that back together, we had to get a safety valve. But gee it came late in the piece and look, throwing petrol on a fire now is not really going to help the situation. We need to understand that we've got to rebuild trust between management and doctors and that's the only way we’re going to get an outcome.

BEN DAVIS:

What about last night's meeting with the vote saying that...could we have mass walk-outs in the Queensland Health system?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Look I think that's a real possibility but we don't want to see that happen. You know, the vote last night wasn't to resign, the vote was that we were not happy with the outcome. The outcome was delivered in draft on the Tuesday and really there hasn't been an opportunity to look at that in clear detail. Certainly the wording that was provided doesn't answer the questions that the doctors wanted to ask.

BEN DAVIS:

The Premier's almost provoking you, isn't he? He's saying 'Well go ahead, resign. We've got contingencies, we can get doctors'. I thought there was a doctor shortage around the country?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well, there is sadly and they may not be outcomes that are really tenable but again, it's not time to put petrol on the fire, it's time to actually coolly and calmly, as the Director-General really showed, that through persistence and through determination and with the Health Minister, that we can actually get closer, we can actually get this deal done. I think that we should not rule out a successful outcome, because that's what the doctors want, that's what the Government wants and that's the best thing for the people of Queensland.

BEN DAVIS:

And Dr Hambleton I applaud you for playing a straight bat here, but as a person who could go into a public hospital system and all of a sudden we're hearing the Premier saying that we'll get doctors from overseas. That scares me a little, because many people out there will just be thinking 'Oh no, are we going to have another Bundaberg on our hands?'

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Yes and look, that was our concern. I mean, one of the issues that has been shown repeatedly is that if you ignore the clinical input into decisions about rostering, into decisions about what we should spend and where, you're going to get outcomes that are actually adverse for patients. Sometimes it's better to spend a little more and have the right people with the right experience looking after patients and do the right rosters and that's the balance when you're working in partnership with your senior practitioners. These are the guys that come in at 2 o'clock in the morning, that's the outcome we need. International colleagues are helping us out in Queensland already, but it's very difficult to get them here, very difficult to get them registered and it's very difficult to get them supervised and they need Australian graduates supervising them and you know, our international colleagues meet the same standards that our Australian doctors do and they're doing a wonderful job, but you can't replace these people overnight. That's the big difficulty.

BEN DAVIS:

If the anaesthetists walk out, we heard Dr Sara say that the system would be crippled overnight, immediately.

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well that's true, our elective surgery...we're showing some good outcomes, our emergency medicine doctors are showing good outcomes. They were engaged, they feel very disengaged at the moment. I guess, looking at the Pineapple Group meetings, there's no other conclusion to make than these people are very unhappy. Whatever was said to them on the night is one issue. The second issue is why did they turn up? I mean there's nearly...1,500 people turned up at the Convention Centre. They were worried about their future, that's why they were there so we need to...we need to take the heat out of this, we need to actually start looking at real solutions and as I say, I'm full of admiration for the Director-General. He turned up, he was brave. The Minister's quite right, he wasn't invited, so I'm not suggesting he could have been there, but the DG showed courage, he turned up, he made the offer, he kept the window open and I think that's the attitude that's going to get this done.

BEN DAVIS:

Doctor, if it doesn't get done, if the cold water doesn't get put on it, are you fearful for patient safety?

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Well yes, I guess that's the point we’ve been making over the last couple of months. We've got a highly-engaged, we had a highly-engaged workforce in Queensland, we were able to build our numbers, there were people that were teaching and training the next generation of doctors, they're the ones that were prepared to come in when they were called. The anaesthetists for the babies that are being born and the operations that are needed, that's the sort of place we need. If we haven't got that, we'll be set back, we'll be set back more than a decade.

BEN DAVIS:

Dr Hambleton thanks for your time this afternoon on NewsTalk 4BC.

DR STEVE HAMBLETON:

Thank you very much.

ENDS

Last updated: 11 June 2014