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More doctors resign from SA public system -

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ASHLEY HALL: Industrial action in South Australia's public hospital system has escalated today with
nearly 60 anaesthetists joining more than 40 emergency doctors in handing in their resignations.

Their resignations will take effect in two weeks, leaving the State Government to either improve
its pay offer or come up with a contingency plan if the doctors leave.

The State Government is looking at bringing in doctors from interstate if the resignations do go
ahead. However, the Australian Medical Association says that will be too little too late, and the
Government won't be able to secure adequate replacement health services.

Nance Haxton reports from Adelaide.

NANCE HAXTON: More than a third of South Australia's public anaesthetists have handed in their
resignations after nine months of failed negotiations with the State Government for an improved pay
offer.

Dr David Teubner is a doctor at the Adelaide Hospital, the Flinders Medical Centre.

He rang Adelaide ABC's morning program today to explain why doctors are taking such drastic action
by resigning.

DAVID TEUBNER: The whole problem with emergency departments, from my perspective, is that patients
who need to be admitted to hospital can't go to medical wards because they're full. Now, if
patients could go straight to medical wards, we'd all be happy and we wouldn't be resining. Every
day there's patients in corridors waiting for beds in the hospitals because the beds in the
hospital are full. And they're waiting for people to go home before they can go in.

NANCE HAXTON: The doctors' union is the Salaried Medical Officers Association.

Senior industrial officer Andrew Murray says Dr Teubner's desperation is typical of many emergency
doctors and anaesthetists in South Australia.

He says they see no hope for the future of the public system and time is running out for the State
Government to act.

ANDREW MURRAY: This shouldn't surprise anyone. We've been seeking to have these issues resolved
with governments since October of last year and of course the issues predate that by a considerable
amount.

So, the frustration that people are feeling is steadily mounting and I think what we're seeing is
that as one group resigns, other people are saying, "Well, I think it is probably is about time
that some sort of stand was made about these issues."

Obviously, people will start to look for alternate jobs which they will have no trouble getting, so
probably practically speaking Friday of this week should be considered to be seen an effective
deadline in most cases.

NANCE HAXTON: This leaves the South Australian Government in the precarious position of trying to
deal with the possibility of a mass walkout of doctors from its public hospitals.

State Health Minister John Hill says the Government is preparing a contingency plan but is still
hopeful the pay dispute can be resolved in the Industrial Relations Commission.

JOHN HILL: We would face real difficulties covering a lot of the surgical procedures that people
have been waiting some time for. We'd obviously have to recruit and that would take time, we'd talk
to the private sector to see whether some of their capacity could be used for public patients. I'm
not suggesting it's going to be very pretty.

NANCE HAXTON: John Hill says the Government is aware of the pressures on the state's public
hospitals and is trying to deal with them. But this dispute is over doctors wanting more pay.

JOHN HILL: What we are wanting to do is to pay these doctors $356,000 at the top level, the level
nine. And they're asking $420,000 plus. Now, it's really about pay. That matter can be resolved
through the Industrial Relations Commission. The issues to do with capacity and building works and
so on, that does take time and we just have to be a bit, a bit reasonable about how long it takes
to actually build the extra capacity.

NANCE HAXTON: But the Australian Medical Association is less optimistic about the Government's
capacity to cover the staff losses if doctors do proceed with their resignations.

South Australian branch president Dr Peter Ford.

PETER FORD: I think really, the system is unsustainable without those people. I mean, we just
cannot stand by and see this followed through, and the matter has to be dealt with.

ASHLEY HALL: AMA South Australia branch president Dr Peter Ford, speaking with Nance Haxton.