27 Apr 2011

Senior doctors, DHBs at odds over pay rise idea

8:05 am on 27 April 2011

Senior doctors and the district health boards that employ them are at odds over a document they jointly prepared calling for a pay rise for the doctors.

The senior doctors' union, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, made the document public on Tuesday but the boards are downplaying it.

The document details senior doctor shortages and recommends that the DHBs allocate funding for a pay settlement costing $360 million over three years, to aid recruitment and retention.

The union describes the paper as a business case designed to address pay and other topics considered key to the state of the workforce.

Executive director Ian Powell says it would help with recruitment and retention and build a stronger workforce. He says senior doctors are currently in a brittle state - tired, overworked and in crisis.

"Although it seems like a lot of money," Mr Powell says, "it is a very, very small proportion of total funding for district health boards."

The document, which the union says it has been working on behind the scenes with the boards for seven months, was originally intended to feed into next month's government Budget.

Mr Powell says they're so far down the path with it that it would be incredibly foolish and very destructive for the boards to get upset about it now.

Boards say it's unaffordable

The DHBs say, however, that more work is needed on what they view as a discussion document, and the figure of $360 million is not helpful.

The boards' spokesperson, Karen Roach, says chief executives want to lift senior doctors' pay but cannot afford the proposed increase.

"We believe there have been substantial changes in the sector since the document was written," Ms Roach says.

She says talks will continue with the senior doctors.