Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
HomeA FocusGPs allege ‘corporate bullying’ after Medicross contract switch

GPs allege ‘corporate bullying’ after Medicross contract switch

Medicross has denied accusations of “corporate bullying”, after about 50 private GPs – who ended their practice administration contracts with Medicross to join a rival company – said they were being subjected to repercussions and various reprisals, with several of them having to resort to costly legal battles.

The doctors, from seven medical incorporated practices countywide, claim to have had patient files withheld, telephone lines and internet cut off and their bank accounts frozen after signing up with competitor EXP Healthcare Solutions.

They allege that the “punitive” measures by Medicross, which is a subsidiary of the Netcare group, are supposed to discourage any more GPs from crossing the floor, reports TimesLIVE.

They said the non-payment of consultancy fees to doctors, inflation of money owed, and the withholding of financial information, had made it difficult to run their rooms.

However, Medicross accused its rival of strategising to “remove medical practices from Netcare Medicross to grow EXP’s business interests”.

“Medicross emphatically denies any allegation of corporate bulling and unethical, malicious and ill-fated attempts to discourage practitioners from terminating their agreements with the respective incorporated practices or Medicross,” said GM of business contracting Charel Hanekom.

“The allegations by EXP, regrettably, have not been substantiated by any facts or evidence to which we can respond.”

EXP Healthcare Solutions CEO Louis Roth alleged that after about 50 GPs joined her stable, certain “ill-fated” and malicious tactics were deployed.

“The intent has been to financially burden the practices and send a warning to other practices considering termination, illustrating the potential consequences, such as costly litigation and operational disruption. This strategy appears to be a typical corporate bully with deep pockets approach,” she claimed.

Roth said in eight High Court rulings over the past four years, the affected doctors’ practices had secured favourable outcomes in six instances involving Medicross.

“Since 2019, EXP Healthcare Solutions has made targeted attacks on Medicross, over the years persuading seven medical practices to move to their model. However, we have extensive experience as providers of administrative services … and serve close to 100 incorporated practices in a fee-for-service agreement,” said Hanekom.

One of the practices embroiled in the tug of war is Dr LH Linde & Associates in the Western Cape, where a doctor said the five-member practice had legally terminated its administration contract at the end of May.

“The only assets Medicross had in the practice were the computers we rented from them, and when the contract ended they were retrieved, along with the patient records stored on them.

“According to our contracts, we had to pay our outstanding debtors’ book to Medicross after the end of May, and we would get the information to enable us to collect the outstanding debt (from patients).”

Instead, the doctor said the practice was sent a letter without any supporting documentation. In addition, doctors were not paid consultancy fees until June, after the practice took legal action against Medicross.

The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) ruled in favour of the practice and Acting Judge Ross Shepstone instructed Medicross to furnish it with patient file numbers in its electronic debtors’ system, and release monies in affected bank accounts.

The judgment is being appealed, meaning the practice still cannot access records and bank accounts.

“In June and July, the practice didn’t have any income as we didn’t receive our fees from the medical aid schemes as our bank accounts were frozen after the contact’s termination. We had to pay money from our own pockets just to keep the practice afloat,” added the doctor.

“The withholding of patient records not only meant that doctors were in the dark about patients’ clinical history, but the practice also could not collect patient debt. We have no clue who owes us money and how much is still outstanding.”

Vereeniging GP Dr Tiaan Harmse from Dr LJ Faul & Associates said after not renewing their contract early in 2019, and moving to EXP, the practice was not paid for two months and had to use its financial reserves to operate.

“For two months we had no income and Medicross said it was keeping our income to balance its books before terminating with us. It refused to let us have control of our bank account. Through lawyers, I had to pay almost R1m as a surety so it could relinquish our bank account so that we could continue our business.”

Medicross was later instructed by the court to pay the practice consultancy fees up until termination date.

 

TimesLIVE article – GPs cry foul over ‘corporate bullying’ by administrator with deep pockets (Restricted access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Competition Commission targets private healthcare monopoly

 

Netcare: R3.7bn revenue loss due to pandemic but ‘steady recovery’ predicted

 

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