Health services in Cairns and Far North Queensland could deteriorate dramatically if the Newman Government presses ahead with its controversial policy to force senior doctors to sign individual contracts, says Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt.

“There is a warning from within the profession that doctors and other senior medical professionals will leave the system in their hundreds,” he said.

“It is a warning that must be heeded.

“As a regional centre which relies heavily on incentives to attract and retain the staff on which our public health system relies, the Cairns region is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of this misguided plunge into Newman’s Workchoices.

“Far North Queensland has problems attracting and retaining specialists and relies on doctors prepared to relocate from capital cities and also from abroad.

“Already we are seeing doctors from New Zealand refusing to work in Queensland as a direct result of these individual contracts which could result in doctors losing tens of thousands of dollars as well as attractive terms and conditions.”

The Opposition has called on the Newman Government to abandon the policy which has set it on a collision course with the Australian Medical Association and other professional bodies.

Dentists, senior nurses, medical officers and others who earn more than $129,000 (including superannuation) will also be required to negotiate individual contracts, losing benefits gained in enterprise agreements.

“Without consultation and without warning, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has decided to force through changes that could threaten the viability of public hospitals,” said Mr Pitt.

“It is as if Mr Springborg is deliberately provoking a showdown with the profession to create a crisis that will force more patients into private health care.

“Labor believes in adequately funded public hospitals staffed by the best specialists, surgeons, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals available.

“We believe in fair enterprise agreements to attract and retain the staff needed to provide world class healthcare,” he said.