Rural Doctors get approval to negotiate

19 December 2018

The ACCC has authorised the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) to negotiate contracts with hospitals and health facilities on behalf of rural doctors.

RDAA will be allowed to negotiate terms and conditions for GPs, locums and other rural doctors, working as Visiting Medical Officers in public hospitals and health facilities.

The approval, granted for 10 years, also applies to doctors who provide after-hours services and other primary health care services.

“Because of collective negotiations, individual doctors can spend less time on negotiations, and groups of doctors may have better input into their contract terms. Ultimately this can help to attract and retain doctors in rural areas,” ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said.

“We have previously authorised the RDAA to negotiate collectively with various state-wide entities. Today’s decision now allows them to negotiate with a range of health and hospital services Australia-wide, irrespective of the structure of the health system in a particular state.”

Unless they are authorised by the ACCC, collective agreements between competitors would normally breach competition laws.

In this case, the ACCC has determined that there are likely to be only minimal public detriments, and some public benefits from allowing collective bargaining to continue.

In its draft determination issued on 9 November 2018, the ACCC proposed to grant authorisation. We received feedback from interested parties. Most supported the proposal. One submission raised concerns about how this process would interact with other groups that negotiate on behalf of salaried doctors in Queensland.

This authorisation is only applicable to doctors who are providing services as independent contractors, not salaried employees. The RDAA provided further information about this, which the ACCC took into account in deciding to grant authorisation for 10 years.

Further information is available at the ACCC authorisations public register.

Note to editors

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. In this instance, rural doctors who are providing visiting medical officer services to hospital and health services as independent contractors would be considered competitors in the supply of these services. Broadly, the ACCC may grant authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.


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