Concern over SDHB survey reiterated

Dr Ian Powell. Photo: ODT files
Dr Ian Powell. Photo: ODT files
The senior doctors union has reiterated its concerns about the Southern District Health Board’s survey of the hours its doctors work, claiming its outcome is ‘‘predetermined’’.

The SDHB has commissioned an external consultant to assess the hours its senior medical officers (SMOs) work, on both clinical and non-clinical tasks, an appointment which has angered the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), which says the exercise duplicates an existing process and is designed to cut costs.

The SDHB, which had not earlier fully briefed staff on the review, last week sent an email to all SMOs with details after the ODT asked a range of questions about the process.

ASMS executive director Ian Powell sent an email to all SDHB union members earlier this week saying SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming’s email to all staff ‘‘simply reinforces the legitimacy of the union’s concern’’.

‘‘It is a clumsy attempt to divide and rule through a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach, but in the circumstance where both Peter and Paul are FTE [full-time employee] impoverished.’’

Dr Powell has been involved in a feisty public debate with Mr Fleming after the publication of an opinion piece by Dr Powell in the ODT on the SDHB, which Mr Fleming said contained statements which were offensive and ‘‘just not true’’.

‘‘Nothing from Chris Fleming has caused me to reconsider my observations in the opinion piece, which recognised that some of the pressures on SDHB also exist in other DHBs,’’ Dr Powell said.

‘‘Many have a historic foundation, but there is a specific ongoing leadership culture of managerialism [at the SDHB] which continues to obstruct moving forward.’’

Dr Powell also criticised an email sent to all senior medical and dental officers by Mr Fleming and SDHB chief medical officer Nigel Millar warning of the need to keep scrupulous boundaries between clinicians’ public and private work.

‘‘Unfortunately, the tone of the comments is over the top and an unfair innuendo on the SMOs referred to,’’ Dr Powell said.

‘‘These responses have heightened ASMS’ wariness over the direction of the senior leadership of SDHB, including suggestions of a high level of predetermination.’’

Responding to the ODT on the remuneration review, the SDHB said change would be negotiated, and it needed to ensure there was a ‘‘robust process’’ for this.

‘‘This project is looking at whether SMO remuneration and practices are aligned with the multi-employer collective agreement, funding arrangements and is adequately staffed.

‘‘The project is intended to ensure transparency and consistency and to end legacy issues which are no longer applicable and hugely costly with no benefit to the services for the community.’’

Mr Fleming said he expected some departments would identify they had inadequate staff and resources, while other departments would be found to have ‘‘overly generous allowances’’.

‘‘The goal of this is not cost-cutting, but making sure our investments in our valuable staff are appropriate to support the wider needs of the health system.’’

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