NASOG eNews: 9 April 2020

I am committed to keeping all NASOG members up to date as the Australian healthcare landscape changes rapidly during the COVID-19 emergency.

If there is something your association can help you with, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

If you are not currently a member, rejoin today to support our work.

A/Prof Gino Pecoraro, NASOG President
Contact me:

1. Agreements with Private Hospitals: Check Before You Sign.

Since the initial announcement of the Federal Governments guarantee for private hospitals there has been a scramble of activity at State and Territory level to implement agreements with private hospital operators.

Each hospital will then implement their own contractual arrangements with individual doctors.

This is an important and high-risk time for doctors. We are managing an unprecedented emergency situation, and the opportunity offered to however, the repercussions within the healthcare system are likely to be long term.

Before you sign a new contract with a private hospital as part of the guarantee arrangements, check through the following:

  • How will you be indemnified for the work?
    • Employer Indemnity or will you need full cover?
    • Will your regular insurer require any additional fees or information?
  • What is the length of the contract?
    • Bear in mind projections for the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
    • Is there a definite end date or time when it will be reassessed? Be aware – an open contract leaves the door open for managed care type contracts in the longer term.
  • What are the remuneration rates?
    • And how do they compare with other private hospitals in your city, state and the rest of the country.
    • Is the structure Fee for Service or wages?
  • If you are working across several hospitals, are the terms and conditions of the contracts offered consistent?
    • Are you a contracter or employee?
    • Will there be any workers compensation arrangements within the contract?
    • Will all doctors be offered equal access opportunity?
    • What happens with regards to sick leave if you become unwell while doing this work, will the state government or private hospital provide sick leave?
    • In the unfortunate event of a workplace related death due to work acquired infection, what support and payments are available for family?

NASOG strongly recommends that you do not sign a contract until you have taken the time to get a good understanding of the terms of the document and had it reviewed on your behalf. If you are an AMA member, get in touch with your state AMA to assist or ask if your MDO offers a service to review the proposed contract.

2. Assisting with the COVID-19 Workforce

If you are a retired O&G returning to the workforce to assist in some way with the fight against COVID-19, we thank you for your dedication! As you prepare to return to the hospital environment you may be asked to work outside your former specialty area or scope of practice. Even if not working in direct clinical contact with patients we suggest you ensure:

  • You are given full and correct training.
  • Your indemnity cover is appropriate (check with your own indemnifier)
  • You know where to raise concerns if you feel uncomfortable or are placed in an unsafe environment

For more information:

3. Good News on Indemnity

NASOG raised the issue of indemnity costs during the COVID-19 emergency with Australia’s medical indemnity insurers, The impact on O&Gs is widely acknowledged and Avant are proactively addressing the issue.

They will shortly be sending their O&G members a policy schedule outlining their current policy information, including their category and annualised billings.  

If anything has changed significantly from what is noted in your current policy documents, you should immediately contact Avant to amend your details.

Significant changes to annualised billings could result in a premium adjustment.

See their COVID-19 resource page for more information on Avant’s  response to COVID-19 and related assistance to their members.

4. Looking to the Future

NASOG believes that the future is one of opportunities and risks. We are very much focused on how the healthcare system in Australia emerges from COVID-19. With that in mind we wrote to Minister Hunt on 31 March with a series of proposals for action which will build on the cooperation and goodwill we are seeing during this period and ensure that doctors are appropriately recognised for the work that they undertake.

NASOG has asked that Government consider the following:

  1. Medicare covers 100% of the schedule fee for services provided by GPs, specialists and nurse practitioners with an incentive scheme to encourage doctors to accept this as full payment for a fixed period until the Australian economy gets back on its feet
  2. Continue to support O&Gs providing frontline services to patients through increased MBS funding to minimise out of pocket costs.
  3. Make changes to the Medicare Safety Net to minimise patients costs in accessing healthcare during the pandemic and recovery from it.
  4. Other levers to incentivise patients who can afford it, to help fund their health care by accessing private health insurance and the private sector.

NASOG also requested a review of necessary legislation, or other incentives, to encourage private health insurers to become more responsive to the economic climate.

We took the opportunity to remind government that greater than 50% of all spontaneous pregnancies in Australia are unplanned so deserve to be covered like other accidents by private health insurance policies. By allowing a single waiver of waiting period in a woman’s life, women and families with private health insurance would be able to access obstetric care in the private sector, further freeing up public capacity.

We look forward to further discussing our proposals with Government and working together to help ensure that both public and private sectors continue to survive and can meet the expected increase in healthcare demands from our population.

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