A SENIOR gynaecologist/obstetrician at Queanbeyan Hospital says patient care has already been affected by the ongoing pay dispute between long-standing specialists and hospital administrators.
The doctor, who spoke to The Queanbeyan Age on the condition of anonymity, said at least two senior specialist's theatre lists have already been cancelled as a result of the standoff as they no longer have contracts with the hospital.
Their patients have been left in limbo as doctors and administrators struggle to hash out a compromise deal.
Hospital administration, however, would only say the patients had been "reassigned” and offered alternative arrangements with other specialists.
And the doctor said even more patients, who could otherwise be treated in Queanbeyan, will be forced onto longer waiting lists in Canberra or Sydney should Southern NSW Local Health hold firm that the specialists accept a 40 per cent reduction in their contracted rates.
The pay stoush centres on Southern NSW Local Health’s attempts to move three senior specialists off their previously contracted Rural Doctors Association rates onto the lower MBS rates.
But The Age understands the doctors affected would rather walk away than accept the new terms being offered.
The three senior specialists met with representatives from Southern NSW Local Health including chief executive Dr Max Alexander last Friday in a bid to end the standoff.
A spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health declared the meeting had been “amicable and productive” and that negotiations were ongoing.
The gynaecologist/obstetrician who spoke to The Age however, painted a less rosy picture of the situation.
“I was quite depressed when I walked out to be honest,” they said. “It seems they’re using every trick in the book not to negotiate these contracts.
“They’re chasing short term cost savings at the expense of patients…but do they really believe they’re going to balance the budget by getting rid of three of the most senior doctors at the hospital?”
Southern NSW Local Health has told The Age it would ideally like to see the disgruntled doctors stay on in Queanbeyan.
But following last Friday’s meeting, a spokesperson reiterated that hospital administrators did not believe the affected doctors were eligible for RDA rates despite Queanbeyan’s designation as an RDA hospital.
Despite neither side appearing willing to back down on that key sticking point, the Southern NSW Local Health spokesperson maintained administrators were hopeful of a speedy resolution to the doctors’ grievances.
A second meeting is tentatively scheduled for early next week.