Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 565 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
for one month is Dr Bates. He is the very same VMO who was named in the Assembly in 1993 for charging booking fees and he arrogantly continues the practice. At the same time, this person was the president of the AMA during contract negotiations. He is still doing this and has been found very guilty of charging booking fees in breach of his contract. I must say I was appalled this morning, Minister, to see the doctor in question trying to justify his position. He was reported as saying that, because the private health insurance system was an "extremely poor product", doctors had to run their own insurance system for patients to try to accommodate their needs and requests. What an outrage!
MR SPEAKER: What is the question, Mr Berry?
MR BERRY: I am happy to see that some penalty has been levied; but does the Minister agree, considering the wilful and persistent breaches of his contract by this VMO, that the community is entitled to expect more than this unethical and predatory behaviour? Further, considering the wilful and persistent breaches of the contract, does the Minister consider that it is appropriate to offer this VMO a new contract at all?
MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Berry, not only for the question but also for the couple of hours' notice which allowed me to get a full answer for you. I will give some background to the situation. A complaint was received in January 1998 from a patient following the cancellation of surgery. On investigation, the patient alleged that she had been advised by Dr Bates that the payment of an additional fee would guarantee her admission to hospital on a certain date. The patient subsequently, on 11 March 1998, signed a statutory declaration outlining the sequence of events leading to her complaint. She also provided the hospital with the receipts for the money paid to Dr Bates. Dr Bates submitted an account to the hospital for the service he provided to the patient as a Medicare patient. This account was paid on 12 March and the cheque presented on 20 March 1998.
Legal advice was subsequently sought regarding options which the hospital could pursue under the terms of the existing visiting medical officer contract. As a result of the advice received, the executive director of clinical services advised the chief executive of the hospital on 4 April 1998 that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Dr Bates had been guilty of serious and wilful conduct in terms of subclause (9)(1)(c) of his VMO contract and recommended that the agreement should be suspended. The chief executive of the hospital met with Dr Bates and the executive director of clinical services on the matter on 6 April 1998. At that meeting Dr Bates indicated that there must have been a misunderstanding and that this had not happened before. I will come back to that.
As required in the contract, the chairman of the Clinical Privileges Committee was consulted. Dr Bates was interviewed on 17 April 1998 and handed a letter from the chief executive of the hospital advising him of the determination to suspend his VMO contract for a period of 30 days from 17 April 1998. The period of suspension was determined following legal advice. Clause 11.3 of the VMO contract which Dr Bates had signed - the contract that is still, for another few days, in existence - says: