Corporatising WA healthcare

CORPORATISED healthcare – the bogey haunting the US medical system – could be coming to WA.

This will open the door for overseas companies to run some of WA’s healthcare system.

Australian Medical Association in WA vice president Bernard Pearn-Rowe said there was nothing stopping an overseas company from owning a WA medical practice.

“I’ve heard there is a lot of South East Asian money in some of the bigger groups,” Dr Pearn-Rowe said.

“There is nothing to stop an aggressive US insurance company moving into a publicly-listed GP entity.”

WA’s Medical Act provides for the registration of corporate bodies – either of all medical practitioners or of medical practitioners and “others acceptable to the Medical Board”.

Medical Board registrar Simon Hood said under the Act, shares in the practice had to be held by medical practitioners.

“However, an overseas company could own the premises and all the infrastructure for the practice,” Mr Hood said.

“Medical practitioners then go in and provide the medical service and give a fee to the company.”

Mr Hood said under the Act only a medical practitioner could have a contract with a patient.

“If an overseas company was to have a direct contract with a patient, we would have a problem.”

The Medical Act is under review and one of the sections earmarked for amendment deals with practice ownership. Recommendations should be available in five months.

Dr Pearn-Rowe said while dentists and pharmacists were protected from foreign takeovers, GPs had no such protection.

“We’re trying to get such a clause put into the Medical Act,” he said.

Dr Pearn-Rowe said the big concern with corporatisation was the standard of care.

“There is not a lot of money in general practice these days,” he said.

“A corporation is not going to make a lot of money from a GP seeing six patients an hour.

“Patient turnover will have to be higher.”

*Corporate Health feature this issue.

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