Pressure builds to end hospital stand-off

SOUTHERN NSW Local Health has refused to say whether it will accept a final compromise offer from the Rural Doctors Association to end its increasingly lengthy pay dispute with senior specialists.

Secretary of the NSW RDA Dr Paul Mara said the organisation had presented Southern NSW Local Health the offer last week in a bid to end the standoff that has directly impacted services at Queanbeyan Hospital.

The offer would see the three senior specialists currently at loggerheads with hospital administration reappointed under their previously existing RDA contract rates.

The ongoing dispute stems from Southern NSW Local Health attempting to move the affected doctors onto the lower MBS Schedule rates - an effective pay cut of up to 40 per cent.

While the existing doctors would be reappointed at the higher rate however, the deal would also see RDA rates at Queanbeyan Hospital phased out over the next few years.

Future appointees would not receive RDA rates under the deal that Dr Mara said is reflective of Queanbeyan Hospital's foreseen transition into a larger, more highly staffed regional facility.

"We made an offer that was a very good compromise for the people of Queanbeyan," he said. "We feel it's a good offer to resolve this case that's reflective of the current circumstances and we hope that the health district will recognise it as such.

"We would expect current RDA rates to be honoured until at least the expiration of all current contracts at Queanbeyan Hospital.

"But over a period of time, Queanbeyan Hospital's changing role would be recognised and the packages for remuneration [for specialists] would be reduced to reflect that."

Similar compromise agreements have previously been reached between hospital administrators and the RDA in other areas of the state.

Southern NSW Local Health refused to comment on the RDA's offer while negotiations remain ongoing.

The RDA's offer is supported by the affected doctors as well as Queanbeyan Hospital's medical staff council.

Dr Mara will meet with the chief executive of Southern NSW Local Health Dr Max Alexander and a senior representative from the NSW Ministry of Health today in one last attempt to hash out a compromise agreement.

If no settlement can be reached, a final decision will be left in the hands of the Liaison Committee which involves the NSW RDA and the NSW Ministry of Health which is set to meet later tonight.

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