Page 3585 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 26 August 2008
has on the shopping centre, on the other businesses in the shopping centre and the impact that it has on the capacity for other doctors to come into Wanniassa and fill the gap must be considered. This is one of the things that I am principally concerned about, and I am disappointed that the committee does not seem to have dwelt on this. Mr Smyth touched on it, but I think it needs to be reinforced.
It appears to the more-than-casual observer that the course of action taken by Primary Health Care in saying that it will continue to hold the lease at Wanniassa until it expires in 2012 is effectively a restraint of trade. One of the things that I expected to see was at least some discussion of whether there should be a reference to the ACCC to see whether there is an issue in relation to restraint of trade. It certainly is not in the recommendations, and I have not had a chance to read all of the discussion. I hope that there is some discussion of that there. This is a matter that I am particularly concerned about.
I am also concerned about it as a model for what might happen with the Kippax family practice. If Primary Health Care decide to move those doctors to Belconnen, what will it do in relation to the space that they leave free in Kippax Fair? Will they do the same thing? Will they hold the lease and keep the building empty, again as a restraint of trade? The minister said, “There’s nothing I can do.” But that is something that she can do. She needs to look very carefully at the way these people are behaving. If it is not this minister’s responsibility as the Minister for Health then it is the responsibility of perhaps the Attorney-General or the planning minister. There is something that the government can do to ensure absolutely that Primary Health Care do not act in an anticompetitive way and stop other doctors from setting up to fill the gap, to fill the void, that they have created.
It is also concerning that such a large number of doctors in the ACT are affiliated and essentially owned by private health care. I have spent a lot of time in the last little while talking to people in general practice and having discussions about this, people who have held out against Primary Health Care. The clear message is that they are, essentially, badgered time and time again and offered substantial and very attractive amounts of money to sell out their practices. It is something that will happen over time if we are not careful. As a GP said to me the other day: “Look, most GPs in Canberra are like me, Vicki. They’re 50-something and they’ve got grey hair, and they want to continue to practise medicine, but it becomes harder and harder. It does become a temptation to sort of sell your responsibility.” He knows, and other general practitioners know, that when you sell the responsibility for running your practice, you sell your soul. You do not even have any right to say where you work anymore, which is what has happened with the doctors who worked at Wanniassa.
The other thing that we know is that doctors are time and time again approached by Primary Health Care saying, “If you don’t come and join with us, this will have a big impact on your own practice.” We know that that is true. I know of a doctor who was relating this to me the other day. A doctor who did not sell out in Woden and who runs a practice in Woden was contacted six months after Primary Health Care opened in Phillip. They came along and said: “Look, you know we know that this has had a big impact on your practice. Don’t you want to sell out to us now?” He said: “Yes, it has had a big impact on my practice. I can’t deal with the number of people who are