Top doctor stood aside in hospital scandal
BRISBANE'S The Prince Charles Hospital has been hit by fraud and corruption allegations in a scandal that has seen one of its most senior doctors stood aside.
Director of cardiology Professor Darren Walters has been taken off his duties while the hospital investigates claims of misappropriation in his department.
The state manager of the hospital's indigenous Cardiac Outreach Program, Peter Malouf, last year made a formal complaint about "anomalies and unethical practices" in the unit.
In a complaint that was referred to the state's corruption watchdog, Dr Malouf made claims of fraudulent invoicing, misappropriation of Medicare funds and incorrect salary payments made to clinicians who do not work in the program.
A Crime and Corruption Commission spokesman confirmed that the CCC "has received allegations about possible corruption and we have assessed the matters and referred them to the Metro North Hospital and Health Service to investigate, subject to the CCC's oversight."
Prof Walters - who previously acted as the executive director of the hospital and is one of the most skilled cardiologists in the state - said he was unable to comment on the matter.
"To my knowledge, no concerns have been raised about my clinical practice," he said.
"I will co-operate with the investigation."
The allegations have also been referred to Queensland and federal health bureaucracies.
Dr Malouf recently complained that his allegations had not been taken seriously and said he had been "undermined and belittled" by hospital managers after making the claims.
In an email detailing his complaints, Dr Malouf said he had "received reprisal from the Director of Cardiology" and the hospital after airing the initial allegations.
Documents seen by The Courier-Mail detail a series of claims that funds were misappropriated from Medicare, a federal scheme called CheckUP and other rural health and indigenous programs.
Dr Malouf has alleged patients were asked to sign blank Medicare forms, while some doctors bill under multiple provider numbers or double bill Medicare and CheckUP.
Other claims include that CheckUP had been invoiced for a cardiology nurse and a rheumatic heart disease health worker who did not attend outreach clinics run by the program.
In his initial complaint, which was sent to Prof Walters and Queensland Health managers, Dr Malouf said he was "obligated ... to report this false reporting to a Commonwealth-funded body and fraud activity".
ICOP has also allegedly paid for training that was not related to the program, according to a written complaint by Dr Malouf.
He also raised concerns about patient confidentiality, warning that patient details were recorded on a local drive that was not password protected and that an attachment containing medical records was emailed to him and many other people who may not have been authorised to see the details.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has seen details of the allegations and described them as "another health scandal on Annastacia Palaszczuk's watch".
"I think Queenslanders would be deeply disturbed about any allegations that an indigenous health program has been defrauded..
"These are some of our most vulnerable Queenslanders who need quality specialist care to help close the gap on indigenous disadvantage."
A Metro North Hospital and Health Service spokesman said: "We can confirm that a senior staff member at The Prince Charles Hospital has been stood down pending the outcome of an independent investigation.
"Due to privacy and confidentiality reasons, we cannot comment on matters relating to individual employees."
Metro North said there would be no impact on patients as a result of the investigation.