AMA seeks renewed authorisation for GP VMO negotiations
In 2008 the AMA sought authorisation to collectively negotiate with relevant state/territory health departments the terms of contracts (including fees) for rural general practitioners providing services as visiting medical officers in public hospitals and health facilities in rural and remote areas of Australia. It did not apply in NSW. On 10 December 2008 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted the authorisation until 28 February 2014.
The AMA is now in the process of renewing this authorisation and on 30 October lodged an application with the ACCC. The application highlights the main public benefits that flow from the authorisation including:
- more effective representation of rural doctors to the State and Territory health departments;
- reduced transaction times and costs associated with the contracting of GPs as VMOs, including for individual doctors; and
- a positive effect on the retention of rural GPs as VMOs.
These public benefits have been supported by experiences gained since the granting of the authorisation in 2008. There are no appreciable public detriments which have flowed from the authorisation.
The AMA sees the authorisation as a vital part of the industrial landscape for rural GPs. Renewal of the authorisation will continue to provide legal protection for rural VMOs and those who act on their behalf in collective negotiations. In those jurisdictions where the authorisation has been relied on the last few years, the AMA has been able to provide experienced industrial officers to negotiate on behalf of the GPs, saving time, money and frustration, and allowing doctors to focus on patient care.
It is likely a final determination will be made in early 2014.