Talk about entitlements. The NSW Government has a policy that allows doctors to take ‘study’ trips on which doctors fly business class – paid for by the public purse.
Doctors can also extend their trips for ‘private leave’. Does this mean they can book in a ‘learning experience’ which could take one afternoon and extend their trip to a week – with all flights on the taxpayer’s dime?
A new report released by the Auditor-General said the policy was “reducing the effectiveness” of policies aimed at keeping costs down. It also revealed these trips may be being used by doctors to mine frequent flyer points for personal use.
The NSW Health special rule allows doctors on “Training, Education and Study Leave” to fly business class to the tune of up to $33,000 each year, allowing them to take ‘personal leave’ during the trips.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the benefits were allowed so that the state could retain the “brightest and best surgeons and physicians”. He also said that the awards came into effect before he was minister.
“It may not be appropriate to change … nonetheless I will be looking at the Auditor-General’s report and asking the ministry to give me advice,” said Mr Hazzard.
Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord has called for a review of the policy, saying it flies “in the face of a health and hospital system under enormous pressure”.
He said this type of travel should not be a blanket entitlement, but rather judged on a case-by-case basis and that while some cases may be justified, he is concerned about potential abuses.
Last year, the NSW Government spent $250 million on travel.
Do you think it’s fair that you may be paying for doctors to travel business class on your dime?