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Gross Negligence cost taxpayers $1.7 million



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^ M E D IA R E L E A S E ^ DR BOB WOODS SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH GROSS NEGLIGENCE COST TAXPAYERS $1.7 MILLION

Government ineptitude has cost taxpayers $1.7 million and could have cost them up to $100 million were it not for legislation hurriedly rushed through the House of Representatives today, Federal Shadow Minister for Health Dr Bob Woods has revealed.

Government changes made in 1984 to the Medicare Benefits Schedule Book regarding Pathology fees were ruled invalid in 1988 by the Queensland Supreme Court, but the Government has waited 3 years to correct them.

In the meantime a Queensland pathologist has successfully backdated claims and will receive $1.7 million of taxpayers money, simply because of the Government's incompetence and ineptitude.

This current legislation will block further claims from the pathologist concerned, which would amount up to $ 7 million, and from other pathologists around Australia which could amount to $100 million.

It is an embarrassing attempt by the Government to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. The Government is guilty of gross negligence on 2 counts.

Firstly, the Pathology Services Advisory Committee and the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee, failed to follow the prescribed principles in advising the Government about new Medicare items. This led to the court's declaration that the new

item numbers were invalid.

Secondly, despite the fact the Department of Community Services and Health knew as far back as 1987 that the item numbers were invalid, it failed to act to validate them. The Government's dilly-dallying has cost taxpayers $1.7 million so far.

The Government is extremely fortunate that scrupulous pathologists chose not to exploit the situation. If they had, taxpayers would have been forced to fund backdated claims to the tune of an estimated $100 million. This is an expensive mistake at taxpayers' expense. The Coalition will bail the Government out by supporting the legislation to prevent it happening again."

16th April 1991

CONTACT DR WOODS 277 4661/2/3(W) OR 295 1800(H) OR LEISA O'CONNOR 277 4661/2/3(W) !

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