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Proposed strike by resident medical officers in NSW outrageous: Howe



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Brian Howe Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services

9 September 1992

PROPOSED STRIKE BY RESIDENT MEDICAL OFFICERS IN NSW OUTRAGEOUS: HOWE

NEWS RELEASE BH205/92

Resident medical officers in New South Wales who are threatening strike action should consider the welfare of patients as their top priority, the Federal Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services, Brian Howe, said today.

Members of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation (ASMOF) have threatened to strike over reforms to improve the quality of medical care delivered by general practitioners.

These include encouraging resident medical officers (RMOs) to complete additional postgraduate training before entering general practice.

"This proposed strike action is totally outrageous and threatens to jeopardise the welfare of tens of thousands of patients," Mr Howe said.

"It is totally irresponsible of these people to threaten patients in this way.

"My prime concern is that patients not be hurt by an internal dispute between different arms of the medical profession over vocational registration.

"It is the medical profession itself that has agreed on the need for extra training for general practice and the Government is supporting them in that decision."

Mr Howe said general practice had been the only area of medicine where post graduate training was optional.

"The Federal Government, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners agree that this is no longer acceptable," he said.

"The Government introduced a $68 million package of reforms in the Budget to enhance general practice.

"These reforms are part of a process which goes back to the introduction of vocational registration in 1989.

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"It is important to note that the specific changes which the RMOs object to have been foreshadowed since 1989 and were considered in depth by the Senate Select Committee on health Legislation and Health Insurance."

Mr Howe said the current changes do not prevent any doctor from entering private practice.

"They do increase the incentive to undertake appropriate training before entering private practice, but I think most people would agree this is not unreasonable," he said.

Mr Howe rejected claims by ASMOF that they had not been consulted about the changes.

"The process of general practice reform has been public for more than 12 months," he said.

"There has been widespread consultation with the profession and I have met with representatives of ASMOF.

"But ASMOF has rejected repeated invitations by my Department to meet on the matter."

Mr Howe also rejected ASMOF's claim that it was unreasonable to expect Australian doctors to study for 10 to 12 years before having any prospect of earning an income.

"This is totally incorrect," he said. "Maybe ASMOF is unaware that its members first receive a salary after six years of study when they become interns."

Mr Howe said it was necessary to ensure that general practice remained a viable career option by implementing an appropriate workforce strategy.

"The Government has already taken steps to reduce the number of overseas trained doctors entering the workforce and supports the professions' view that numbers being trained for general practice should be based on workforce requirements," he said.

"I hope the RMOs will not threaten the welfare of patients and jeopardise these initiatives to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of medical services for all Australians."

For further information: Ross Gardiner, Mr Howe's Office (06) 277 7680