Junior doctors overworked, demoralised and ignored in the state budget | AMA (WA)

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Junior doctors overworked, demoralised and ignored in the state budget

Thursday May 11, 2023

The AMA (WA) welcomes the increased spend on our sick health system and this will greatly assist in getting our State on the road to recovery.

AMA (WA) President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said $2.7 billion in additional investment in health and mental health in the 2023-24 State Budget was a significant contribution to reducing the pressures on an overburdened system.

The spend includes $1.2 billion for major public hospital infrastructure and $420 million for mental health.

“Importantly, there is an additional investment of $920 million for WA Health to support core services, including $841 million for hospital services and $78 million for health-related spending in response to COVID-19,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“It is vital that any additional capacity in the system has funding on the services that underpin that capacity.

“There is also a commitment to a further 600-plus hospital beds, with $3 billion to be spent over 2022-23 to 2026-27.

“That builds on the 547 new beds added to the system in the past two years.

“WA has lagged behind the national average on hospital bed numbers for some time, so this boost will help to address the deficit.”

However, no amount of investment in the health system infrastructure will improve its operation, in the absence of fully staffed services, where health system workers are engaged, respected and supported.

Dr Duncan-Smith said the AMA (WA) was greatly concerned regarding the absence of support packages for our overstretched and undervalued junior doctor workforce.

“Junior doctors are a vital and intrinsic part of the rehabilitation of our ailing State health system,” he said.

“Disappointingly, there is nothing in the State Budget to assist with the support, retention and attraction of this vital, frontline hospital doctor workforce.

“The AMA (WA) has been working with the McGowan Government to improve access to basic entitlements such as overtime payments and access to leave.”

“The AMA (WA) has been liaising with WA Health in good faith to address retention and attraction of our junior doctors, the frontline hospital doctors that worked so hard for this State through COVID-19. At this stage, we have been unable to secure a retention and attraction incentive program.”

While welcoming the McGowan Government’s assistance with the attraction of new nurses in WA, Dr Duncan-Smith said frontline hospital doctors had been ignored.

“WA’s junior doctor workforce is demoralised and overworked, and the lack of any support packages for them in this budget will further degrade their trust and confidence in WA Health and the WA Government,” he said.

“The junior doctor workforce is a mobile, national workforce and the McGowan Government needs to do more for the well-being, attraction and retention of junior staff as an intrinsic part of the rehabilitation of our state healthcare system.”

The Queensland Government yesterday announced attraction and retention packages of up to $20,000 if healthcare workers make the decision to come and work for Queensland Health. Doctors who make the decision to take up a job in regional and remote Queensland will be paid up to an additional $70,000.

“This was to stop loss of their doctors to New South Wales, who announced attraction and retention incentives last year. These incentives clearly work,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“The AMA (WA) calls on the McGowan Government to reconsider their position on junior doctor well-being, attraction and retention, and engage with the AMA (WA) to keep our doctors here in WA where we need them.”