The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has allowed the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) and its state associations to continue to collectively negotiate with state and territory health departments, on behalf of rural doctors.
The ACCC has also extended the authorisation to allow collective negotiations at a state level with Country Health South Australia and Western Australia Country Health Service, which are now designated as local hospital networks.
The negotiations relate to the terms and conditions under which rural doctors, including GPs and locums, provide services in public hospitals and health facilities as Visiting Medical Officers and provide after-hours services.
“Collective negotiation can deliver cost savings and provide more effective input into contracts. This may lead to greater attraction and retention of doctors in rural areas, where access to sufficient medical services could otherwise be limited,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
The RDAA also sought authorisation to collectively negotiate with newly established Medicare Locals and other state and territory Local Hospital Networks, which have been established to provide tailored healthcare solutions in geographically defined areas.
The ACCC has not extended authorisation to negotiations with these parties due to concerns that collective negotiations may reduce price competition and the scope to negotiate solutions that are specifically tailored for each region.
Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.
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