Medical centres are trading shots

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Lawyers for the long-established Queenstown Medical Centre continue to hunt for the legal prescription to shut down a new rival’s resident GP. 

Last week QMC was threatening to injunct Dr Bruce McKinnon from working at new practice Midtown Medical in O’Connell’s Shopping Centre. 

The threat prompted McKinnon’s new boss Greg Roberts to cry “anti-competitive behaviour”. Since then, McKinnon has been seeing patients at Midtown, while former employer QMC has told its solicitors to go back to their lawbooks. 

QMC alleges McKinnon is breaching a restraint of trade clause in his employment contract which prevents him practising within 40km for three months. 

Roberts counters by saying McKinnon’s contract with QMC expired in 2008 and he’d been working as a locum since. 

Nothing more’s been heard about any injunction, Roberts says. 

“They’ve rattled their sabre quite a bit but it’s quietened down considerably since last week.” 

Not so, QMC boss Dr Richard Macharg says. 

QMC legal eagles are just doing some more research, he says. 

“It’s not cut and dried. We have employment contracts for all our staff and if certain clauses aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, then we’ve got to find that out for our own future.” 

Macharg’s lawyers are telling QMC to take a test case over the restraint clause, he says. 

“We’re not trying to stifle [competition]. If [Roberts had] employed a fully-qualified GP from Auckland or Invercargill or Dunedin, then there wouldn’t be a problem.” 

McKinnon also didn’t give any notice and just phoned from holiday to say he wouldn’t be returning, Macharg alleges. 

Roberts says he feels like David against Goliath but won’t cave in to the 13-partner QMC.