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Guidelines - radiologists & pathologists in public hospitals

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NEWS RELEASE from the Australian Minister for Health DR. NEAL BLEWETT.

Dr Neal Blewett, Federal Minister for Health, today rejected claims made by the Deputy Opposition Leader that new guidelines for radiologists and pathologists practicing in public hospitals had been introduced without adequate negotiations and consultations.

"I first met the radiologists on this subject on 2 August 1983, having first raised the guidelines with the AMA in July.

"Apart from other Medicare^ related negotiations, my senior advisors and officers formally met the AMA who then represented the radiologists and pathologists on no fewer than five separate occasions.

"I have seen the AMA, apart from numerous other medical groups, at least monthly and often more frequently since then.

"Last week in Adelaide I met the AMA on this issue alone for over two hours. Despite the Government's willingness to offer a range of concessions the AMA remained completely intransigent.

"On behalf of State Governments the Commonwealth has now laid down moderate, fair and equitable principles under which the states can supervise the more extravagant demands made on taxpayers1 funds by groups who are, by any standards, already doing extremely well out of the public purse.

"One specialist in Victoria was paid over $300,000 in one year out of the .public hospital system. .

"A pathology practice was paid out over $1 million in 1980-81. These sums are net - that is the public hospital system has paid all the specialist's . costs - X-Ray film, account processing, and other expenses. .

"It is completely typical of Mr Howard and the Liberal Party to rush . to the defence of the outrageously well'off. His claims are typical of the mischief and confusion that his Party and those they represent will make when their financial self-interest is threatened.

"I would have thought that the apologists for these highly paid specialists would have run up against the limits of shame in continuing to claim an unfettered right for uncontrolled access to public funds.

"In effect the restrictions will be marginal. Let me make it clear that no upper limit is placed on the total amount that private radiologists and private pathologists can earn nor is any limit placed on earnings outside the public hospital system.

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"Negotiations between the State Governments and the radiologists and pathologists are still continuing.

"The Commonwealth has in fact extended the deadline for conclusion of negotiations until 1 March so as to allow opportunities to work out satisfactory transitional arrangements.

"Mr Errol Pickering, Director of the Australian Hospitals' Association, has quite correctly described the specialists' attitude as emotional huff and puff.

"Mr Pickering has pointed out that radiologists often earn more than twice that other specialist doctors earn.

"Recent estimates based on 1982 figures suggest that there are some 200 medical practitioners in Australia who gross over $500,000 per annum. Of these approximately 150, or 757o, are either pathologists or radiologists.

"The Government has been patient and flexible in these negotiations but this has been mistaken for a willingness to cave in to extravagant demands and threats.

"This.Government has acted in the best interests of patients and the taxpayer. . . '

"Ϊ am confident that saner counsels than Mr Howard's will prevail and that radiologists and pathologists will not allow a dispute about remuneration to adversely affect those for whom they are responsible.


19 January 1984