A JUNIOR doctor leading a class action case against Peninsula Health for underpayment says a recent court ruling is a turning point for the industry.
Dr Gaby Bolton was the lead applicant in the case against Peninsula Health. Earlier this month the Federal Court ruled that Peninsula Health had breached the Fair Work Act by not paying her correctly.
Dr Bolton began her employment at Peninsula Health on 8 January 2019, working primarily at Frankston Hospital. Her claims for unpaid overtime related to four rotations undertaken between January 2019 and January 2021.
The Federal Court ruling read that Dr Bolton should be compensated for the overtime she worked. “In determining the factual issues raised as to whether Dr Bolton was, in fact, impliedly authorised to perform the overtime work claimed, I have determined that Dr Bolton was authorised in respect of each category of overtime claimed, other than for what is later referred to as ‘ward round overtime’,” the ruling read. “As Dr Bolton was not paid for the overtime work which I have determined Peninsula Health authorised her to perform, Peninsula Health has contravened the 2018 Agreement and therefore s50 of the FW Act. In considering the compensation that Dr Bolton should be awarded, I have been satisfied that the overtime hours claimed to have been worked are substantially, but not entirely, proven.”
Dr Bolton said she hopes the finding will bring change to the healthcare industry. “Payment of our hours will hopefully force hospitals to make a change. This isn’t a safe environment for junior doctors, and it certainly wasn’t a safe environment for the patients we work so hard to care for,” she said.
“I started this case with the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation of Victoria because my colleagues were overworked and exhausted. I see junior doctors every day who perform medical emergencies and prepare patients for surgery when they are clearly fatigued.”
Peninsula Health chief medical officer Dr Shyaman Menon said the organisation is reviewing the outcome of the case. “Peninsula Health acknowledges the judgement handed down by Justice Bromberg in the Federal Court on Friday afternoon,” Menon said. “Our junior doctors are an important part of the future of our organisation and we acknowledge the important contribution they make across all our hospitals and healthcare sites.
“We are carefully reviewing the judgement of the Federal Court, and are not in a position to comment further at this time.”
Gordon Legal and Hayden Stephens and Associates represent ASMOF and junior doctors. Gordon Legal partner Andrew Grech said “but for brave young doctors like Gaby Bolton and the many colleagues who gave evidence in her case, we would not have been able to achieve this landmark legal victory against wage theft for junior doctors”.