Public sector pay freeze to push up hospital costs, report says
Tasmania’s public sector pay freeze bill will result in hospital costs rising, a report warns.
The pay freeze bill will move to the Legislative Council next week after passing the Lower House on Thursday night.
It is hoped the move will save $ 50 million in a bid to reign in the budget.
Independent health analyst Martyn Goddard said the pay freeze plan was a radical policy and there was no sunset clause in the legislation.
He believed it will result in an exodus of senior doctors and nurses.
Doctors who remained, he said, would demand special contracts, while the gaps would be filled by expensive locums.
“For emergency doctors, it’s $ 2,500 a day; on top of that they get a car, airfares, accommodation,” Mr Goddard said.
“It’s quite clear that the Government has not thought this through in detail.”
The nursing federation anticipates that hospitals will have to rely on expensive agency nurses.
“Nurses will leave the state, they will walk with their feet,” said state secretary Neroli Ellis.
“Certainly our speciality nurses which are hard to recruit will potentially be most at risk.”
Mr Goddard warned that as well as increasing costs, patient care could be compromised.
“That is going to affect patient care, the availability of patient care and safety of patients were going to end up putting more patients at risk,” he said.
Tasmania’s Health Minister Michael Ferguson has rejected claims the Government’s public sector pay freeze could end up costing money.
Mr Ferguson said Mr Goddard has got it wrong.
“I want to say it’s very important that the pay freeze which applies right across the public sector is actually about securing employment and allowing us to put extra services into the front line which we know Tasmanians are calling for,” Mr Ferguspn said.
Some Upper House MPs have already declared they cannot vote for it in its current form and it is set for amendments.
Fire service hoses down budget cuts impact
Tasmania’s fire chief believes savings targets can be met without cutting jobs.
As well as freezing public sector pay, the State Government aims to cut 700 public sector positions.
The Tasmania Fire Service’s Mike Brown said he would be able to achieve budget savings through increasing efficiency rather than cutting positions.
He has been told there would be no forced redundancies.
He expected savings will be achieved through reducing duplication with Tasmania Police and the Department of Emergency Management.
“We’ve already held off on a number of vacancies both from Tas Fire Service and the Department of Emergency Management so that we can have that discussion about how we’re going to integrate those support services and where efficiencies can be made with that,” he said.
“We’re not talking about the loss of any jobs at the moment, in fact volunteer-wise over the last 18 months to two years we have in fact got more volunteers that have joined the Tasmania Fire Service.”
The fire service has added 14 new fire trucks to its fleet with another 14 being manufactured in readiness for next year.
The heavy tanker trucks cost $ 220,000 each and are being paid for using money collected in the fire levy included in council rates.
Mr Brown was confident the fire service would be at full strength when the fire season comes around.
Four will go to the east coast, four to the Derwent Valley and six to Hobart and the south-west.
The TFS has 1,500 volunteers.
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