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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 814


Mr MacKELLAR(10.12) —I seek further clarification by the Minister for Health because from my reading of this provision he seems to be saying that he will take particular action against certain sections of the medical profession, particularly in this case the radiologists. The general thrust of the argument seems to be that radiologists use up an excessive portion of health expenditure. In fact, I think it represents a bit less than 7 per cent of total health expenditure. There is a suggestion that radiologists generate extra income by multiple servicing whereas radiologists do only the work that other doctors ask them to do.

I refer to the personal relationship between radiologists and patients. There seems to be a suggestion that radiologists peform services for doctors rather than for patients. This is a very sterile argument because what the radiologist is doing is coming in very close contact with the patient and is performing a service for the patient, as are the other doctors treating that patient. I know that radiologists believe that they are being discriminated against as providers of diagnostic services by the suggestion that special conditions be put into their contracts. I would like to hear from the Minister why this apparent discrimination is to be practised. If this is going to be the case the crunch will come not so much in the big teaching hospitals but in the non-teaching hospitals where work is being done on a visiting medical officer basis.

If it is alleged that a doctor is double dipping in respect of moneys earned by hospital patients being treated on a contractual basis and private patients being treated at the same time, I think that rather than discriminate against the radiologists this problem could be more easily overcome by writing contracts only for work done on hospital patients and leaving the fee for service arrangements inplace for private patients in public hospitals. It seems to me that there is a suggestion of discrimination against radiologists and some other medical specialists. I would like the Minister to outline whether this is the case. If it is, it could be that it is the thin edge of the wedge and the radiologists and pathologists are being used as whipping boys to gain public approval for this act, with a view to later including other specialities in these arrangements.