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AMA dispute



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from the Australian Minister for Health DR. NEALBLEWETT.

AMA DISPUTE

Medicare

The decision by the Australian Medical Association to —

accept Government proposals to end the doctors' dispute was a .triumph for "commonsense and a vindication of the principles the Government had fought for, the Australian Health Minister, Dr Neal Blewett, said today. '

Dr Blewett said he welcomed the AMA's announcement that it would accept current Government guidelines on the Schedule . Fee to be charged in public hospitals by diagnostic specialists. He said this showed that for the first time the AMA seemed

to recognise the basis of the Government's position.

"We have maintained throughout this dispute that when specialists use public hospitals the public should have a say in how much they charge", Dr Blewett said.

"What they do in private practice is their own business but what they do in public hospitals is a matter of public interest."

"Our guidelines will* mean that the Government now will be in a position to properly protect taxpayers' monies.". .

Dr Blewett said the final agreement drawn up during the " three-hour meeting in Canberra last night between Dr Blewett, the Employment and Industrial Relations Minister, Mr Willis, and Federal leaders of the AMA represented no major concessions by the Federal Government.

"What has been agreed on is only a slight refinement on what the Prime Minister and I offered the AMA five weeks ago. Agreement could have been secured then but for the wilder elements in the AMA." "It is a matter of great regret that the public was

inconvenienced to the extent that it was by what was a quite unnecessary and selfish strike."

"Those people in New South Wales and the ACT who have had surgery delayed because of industrial action by the specialists, have every right to feel angry with the intransigent position that was adopted by a radical section of the AMA."

"The Government had made every effort to end the dispute ' by amending parts of Section 17 of the Health Insurance Act with which the AMA disagreed."

"This went to the extent of giving the Senate full veto over the Minister for Health's powers under Section 17 and removing the necessity for specialists to sign contracts. "

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"The concessions we offered meant there was absolutely no justification for a doctors' strike."

Dr Blewett said the Government had not at any time been prepared to abandon the guidelines which gave it the power to say that no more than the Schedule Fee be charged for prescribed services in public hospitals.

He said the decision opened the way for the setting up of a working party involving Government and the AMA to prepare a joint submission to the Penington Inquiry.

The working party would make recommendations on formal ' * x consultative mechanisms between the Government and the ยท AMA on the guidelines of Section 17, and appropriate aribtration procedures in the event of non-agreement on the quantifiable elements of the guidelines.

Dr Blewett said the Government had maintained throughout the dispute that it was prepared to accept any consultative system recommended by the Penington Inquiry.

He said the Government had made a minor concession last night when it agreed to delete from the presently prescribed services, services other than those provided by radiologists, pathologists, radiotherapists and physicians in nuclear medicine.

In return, the AMA would cease all industrial action in relation to Section 17 and related matters and accept the current guideline on the Schedule Fee in respect of prescribed services.

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Adelaide 6 April 1984