The entire team of anaesthetists at St Vincent’s Private Hospital – more than 30 doctors – is under investigation for acting as a cartel.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is moving to end what other doctors claim is a decades-long history of restrictive behaviour by an old boys’ network which is bent on protecting its exclusive access to some of Sydney’s most lucrative private operating lists.The ACCC last week demanded the group – a consortium of doctors employed as independent contractors but allocated nearly all the hospital’s anaesthetic work – justify its existence and membership rules and defend how its members set patients’ fees.Other doctors said giving anaesthetic shifts to a limited pool of specialists could also compromise patient care, barring surgeons from choosing anaesthetists experienced in particular operations.The commission’s move could see individual doctors hit with fines of up to $500,000 if they are found to have breached competition laws. It comes after the hospital last year applied to the commission to rule it could continue the practice of preventing outside anaesthetists from working in its operating theatres, even when requested by a surgeon.The private hospital’s pool is restricted to anaesthetists who also work at St Vincent’s Public Hospital – appointed through what the hospital describes as a, ”competitive process ” intended to benefit public patients, but which others say includes a system of patronage skewed towards doctors trained there.The application prompted a huge backlash, as individuals and specialists’ groups told the commission the closed roster was unjustified and unique in NSW.In its submission, NSW Health, which funds St Vincent’s Public Hospital, said public patients did not benefit from the exclusivity arrangement, because there was no, “current or foreseeable shortage of anaesthetists,” in the eastern suburbs, and, “indeed if anything there is an oversupply”.The hospital withdrew the application in December and is understood to have told the doctors, who effectively run the anaesthetic department and charge some of Sydney’s highest rates, to change how they allocate work.But the commission is now investigating new complaints from anaesthetists who say they are still locked out of work at St Vincent’s Private.Early this year the hospital’s executive director, Robert Cusack, signed a rejection letter saying there was, ”sufficient anaesthetic cover within the existing cohort of anaesthetists,” and the candidate therefore, ”did not satisfy a business need of the hospital.”Despite this, Mr Cusack is understood to be furious with the anaesthetists’ position and to have told them he will not pay their legal costs or any fines.An anaesthetist, David Bollinger, told the Herald : ”I’ve had a professional relationship with a surgeon I’ve worked with for 15 years, and he moved to St Vincent’s and they won’t let me work there. It’s … mean-spirited, and bordering on unethical.”Another anaesthetist refused work said: ”St Vincent’s is very highly regarded in the community [but] the way they do things is not necessarily in the best interests of patients … it’s in the best interests of themselves.”Gregory Deacon, public officer of the St Vincent’s Private anaesthetists’ consortium, declined to comment, saying the matter was being handled by lawyers. The hospital also refused to comment, citing the ACCC proceedings. theage苏州美甲培训学校.au
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