GPs accuse government of being ‘undemocratic’

90 percent of doctors say they are prepared to stop working for the government over conflict

The government is considering stripping general practicioners (GPs) of their right to negotiate their collective bargaining agreement, according to documents secured by public broadcaster DR through a freedom of information request.

Negotiations between the regional health authorities, Danske Regioner, and GPs to renew their collective bargaining deal recently collapsed after GPs refused to accommodate the government’s proposals aimed at giving Danske Regioner more power to control the location and opening hours of clinics as well as more say over the work GPs perform.

The government is currently drafting a law to force the new conditions on GPs but according to Henrik Dibbern, chairman of the doctor’s union PLO, the documents show that the government has all along known it was going to intervene in the negotiations.

“It’s an attack on democracy,” Dibbern told DR. “I think this is proof that there has always been a master plan.”

But the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti) denied this and said that the government would only take away the right to negotiate in extreme circumstances.

“This has arisen in a situation after lengthy negotiations, and PLO still expresses no desire to work for the public sector and we have a health service that isn’t working and that is not responsible to patients,” she said.

The law that the government has proposed, and which will be voted on at the end of May, will remove the right for GPs to sit at the table when the services they are expected to perform are decided by the health regions.

But the political head of Dansk Regioner, Bent Hansen (Socialdemokraterne), yesterday advised the government to relax the law and allow doctors to sit on the regional health committees.

Enhedslisten’s health spokesperson Stine Brix supports this idea.

“Of course the doctors need to sit at the table in the future when decisions about general practices are discussed,” Brix told Politiken newspaper. “It’s completely unreasonable that the government wants to exclude them.”

The government has proposed that GPs be allowed to write to the committees with their recommendations rather than contributing directly through meetings, but Brix thinks this will slow down the decision-making process.

“Doctors need to be involved when making their work plans because the doctors know best about the challenges of running a practice, and its doctors who know their patients need,” Brix said. “If you don’t involve doctors directly, the authorities risk making bad and expensive decisions, and that would be a shame.”

Over 90 percent of doctors in the four of five health regions that have held votes have said they will stop working for the public health service if the government presses ahead with the planned changes.

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