WA Health denies public hospital doctors permanency

AMA 9WA) | A Fair Go Campaign

The Australian Medical Association (WA) sought permanent employment for senior doctors.

At present, senior practitioners can only be appointed on fixed-term contracts for a duration of five years, or six months (to fill short-term exigencies only).

You have no automatic right of employment renewal, and health service providers (HSPs) only have to provide you with a letter within 12 months of your contract expiring, informing you that your contract will not be renewed. They do not need to justify or account for that decision, or the process that led to that decision.

And this only applies if you’re on a five-year contract. If you are employed for a shorter term, you have no right to nonrenewal notice, whatsoever.

What other profession is forced to operate within a veil of secrecy and in the absence of accountability?

Compounding these deficiencies, there has been a proliferation of short-term contracts issued by HSPs.

Practitioners with extensive employment history with WA Health, have found themselves being offered contracts on terms shorter than five years – leaving these individuals particularly vulnerable to bureaucratic whims.

The AMA (WA) believes these vulnerabilities are being used to silence the profession, significantly impacting workforce morale and your ability to speak up, raise concerns, or challenge the way things are done in the interests of patient safety. Independent reports into the WA health system agree.

Permanency will not only improve workforce morale and patient safety but it will also save the health system money – no more contract renewal processes. It will instill a degree of process and fairness into WA Health’s management of medical practitioners. It will also provide the same employment security to you, that every other WA public sector employee is entitled to.

  • WA Health refuses to provide senior doctors with a right to employment security and permanent employment.
  • WA Health will retain the right to provide doctors 12 months’ notice that they will not renew employment, but will provide a reason for non-renewal.
  • The offer seeks to legitimise current non-compliance where senior practitioners are not offered a contract of five years, by allowing fixed term contracts of less than five years.

WA Health’s offer not only seeks to legitimise current practices of non-compliance where senior practitioners are not offered a contract of five years, it fundamentally fails to provide job security for senior practitioners.  Every senior doctor will remain at the mercy of arbitrary non-renewal.

Requiring an Employer to provide a reason for contract non-renewal does not protect senior practitioners from bureaucratic retribution, nor will it ensure that the non-renewal process will be enacted with any degree of probity, transparency or merit.

WA Health refuses to provide permanency given that they need to ‘flex’ the clinical workforce and because senior practitioners “traded away permanency” some twenty-four years ago, for five-year appointments and a salary increase.

  • This fails to reflect the true sentiment of the 1996 industrial agreement (1996 Agreement).
  • It overlooks the fact there have been 7 further industrial agreements that have followed the 1996 Agreement.
  • Is a redundant justification in the context of good faith present day bargaining.

Critically, WA Health reasoning fails to outline how patient safety, workforce morale and doctor wellbeing will be safeguarded, and will not continue to be negatively impacted through the perpetuation of current job insecurity for senior practitioners.

Some facts to consider:

  • Every other state in Australia offers permanent employment to public hospital doctors.
  • Every other non-executive public sector employee in WA has a right to permanent employment.

In a health system where you bear the ultimate responsibility for patient care, where you need to be able to make decisions based on the outcome for patients without fear or favour, WA Health thinks it appropriate to use the lack of permanency as an inappropriate means of control.

              AMA (WA) Permanency

Source: AMA (WA) WA Health EBA Negotiations (Senior Doctors)

The true cost of testing the market and treating clinicians as commodities

Dr Stella Fabrikant tells a departmental and personal story of workplace relations among tertiary public hospital doctors.

Share your story & help advocate for change

You need to share your story now – because the State Government doesn’t think this impacts your wellbeing. They don’t think you deserve these issues being addressed. All details will be kept confidential and secure. The AMA (WA) will not use your story in any way that would identify you – without your express permission.