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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid has discussed concerns about Prison Medical Officer contracts and GP reviews of the health of new prisoners during a meeting with the Minister for Corrective Services, the Hon. Fran Logan.
These two issues, which have recently received media attention, were the result of departmental policy changes and had resulted in concerned members contacting the AMA for assistance.
Doctors working in prison health have traditionally been paid on the same scale as specialist consultants, but the Department has offered contract renewal at lower rates of pay.
Dr Khorshid accepted that some doctors may have signed new contracts at lower remuneration but argued those doctors were not happy with the terms offered.
“These signed contracts are not an indication that the rate of pay is acceptable but instead demonstrate the fear that accrued benefits would be lost if they did not sign,” Dr Khorshid said.
Minister Logan was informed that the Corrective Services Department failed to understand that PMOs are in many cases specialist General Practitioners working in primary healthcare and should be paid on the same scales as doctors who work in public hospitals.
Dr Khorshid also raised another recent policy change , the removal of the previous automatic consultation of a new prisoner with a GP, and for nurses to now attend to the first consultation.
“I worry that this is a decision based on reducing costs and not on improving health.
“Prisoners generally have low health literacy, higher levels of risk-taking behaviour and mental health problems and a lower socio-economic and educational background than the general population.
“It is critical that every opportunity to improve prisoner health is taken and I have called on the Minister to ensure that doctors are adequately involved in the development, management and delivery of prison health services.”
Dr Khorshid said he was pleased that Minister Logan had listened to the AMA (WA)’s concerns about the recent departmental decisions.
“Today’s meeting was a good opportunity for the Minister to hear our concerns about these changes. However we believe these policy shifts have been made purely in order to cut costs and certainly not to increase the quality of healthcare both for prisoners and for the wider WA community,” Dr Khorshid said.