‘Disgusting’ union TV ad shows specialists pocketing $100 notes

Medical politics

By Geir O'Rourke

8 Dec 2022

A union’s TV advertisement that depicts specialists taking wads of cash and driving luxury cars while patients suffer has been slammed as a “cheap sucker punch” by the AMA.

The Health Services Union (HSU) unveiled the advert this week to launch a campaign seeking a royal commission into the NSW health budget, explicitly accusing specialist doctors of pocketing money amid inflated waitlists and pay cuts for other frontline workers.

The advertisement, which the union says will run across television and social media, appears to show a man experiencing a heart attack while waiting for an ambulance and a sick child waiting for treatment.

It then cuts to footage of a faceless doctor putting a handful of $100 notes into his pocket, and a luxury Mercedes Benz with a personalised license plate reading DOCTOR1.

AMA (NSW) president Dr Michael Bonning said he was disgusted by the ad campaign, calling it an attack on all doctors.

“The HSU’s insinuation that doctors would stand idly by while patients suffer is a disgusting attack on the reputation of all doctors,” he said.

“It is a cheap sucker punch to every hard-working medical professional in the state and flies in the face of the daily heroic efforts doctors make to deliver top quality care to patients.”

“It’s unfathomable that the HSU would think this is a fair representation of the care doctors deliver to patients.

Dr Bonning called on the union to drop the campaign and work together with doctors to address the growing pressure on the state’s health system, which had impacted all health workers.

Over the past 10 years, hospital separations had grown 2.2% and GP attendances 2.8% on average per annum, significantly exceeding the state’s annual average population growth of 1.3%, he pointed out.

“We fully support all frontline workers in their campaign to receive a fair wage, but these tactics are completely disingenuous.

“We support a health budget that puts patients first and allows for patients to be seen in a timely manner – this includes ambulance transfers of patients, as well as funding that improves access block in hospitals.

“There are many reasons why the health system is slipping on performance measures. We have a system that remains under pressure because of a growing and ageing population that is presenting to hospital with complex co-morbidities,” Dr Bonning said.

But HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes doubled down on the campaign in the media, claiming specialist doctors were “pocketing more money than ever”.

Meanwhile, other frontline workers like ambulance officers, nurses and hospital cleaners were going backwards in real terms, Mr Hayes said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph (link here).

“Each year the minister announces a record health spend yet people still cop unacceptable wait times for ambulances and specialists,” he said.

“We know this money is not going to paramedics, therapists, radiologists, junior medical officers and cleaners. Their incomes are going backwards.”

“Only a full royal commission with the power to discover documents and compel witnesses will show us where and how the health budget is being spent.”

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