Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doctors query local control of medical services

The Australian, June 30, 2010

SENIOR doctors have raised the alarm over another element of the federal government's health reform program.

They warn that the original promise that the system would be "run locally" is under threat as states move to set up hospital networks.

Local control was central to Kevin Rudd's original pitch for his health reform plans in March, and at the time was seen as a partial riposte to Tony Abbott's plan to restore local hospital boards.

But doctors from NSW, Victoria and rural Australia say local clinical control faces being severely curtailed by a requirement that doctors and nurses given seats on the networks' governing councils are drawn from neighbouring networks. Senior doctors say the condition -- ostensibly to reduce conflicts of interest -- will ensure clinicians on the councils will be unfamiliar with the issues and have limited ability to influence what goes on.

Sydney emergency specialist Sally McCarthy, president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, said the issue was "of great concern" and allowing only external clinicians would "completely undermine" the government's pledge for local control.

"I don't think you can read it in any other way . . . than a deliberate move to continue to shut clinicians out of meaningful involvement and decision-making," Dr McCarthy said.

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