The GP whose departure triggered the closure of a new cut-price Queenstown medical centre says things are “a complete mess”.
Depending on who’s talking, Dr Bruce McKinnon either walked out on Midtown Medical because of unpaid wages – or he broke an agreement to work between Christmas and New Year.
With another GP only part-time, Midtown founder Greg Roberts claims McKinnon walked out, forcing him to lay off the receptionist and shut the doors on December 28.
There’s more – Roberts reckons his centre loses money, a former nurse is taking legal action against Midtown, Roberts threatens to go McKinnon for luring patients, and Roberts himself is being bagged for putting money
before patients and staff.
McKinnon was guarded this week.
After saying “it’s just a complete mess at the moment”, McKinnon was asked about Roberts’s allegation that he broke an agreed roster and took a three-day holiday.
McKinnon: “If you want people to work, you pay them – that’s all I could say.”
He wants to remain in Queenstown “but…it’s not like I have a team as such ready to work” in a new practice.
Is it about money? “No, it’s more complicated than that and I think I’ll just leave it at that.”
McKinnon was repeatedly phoned for further explanation but didn’t call back.
Nurse Hilary Ross – who’s taking Midtown to the Employment Court – and laid-off receptionist Lorna Gray are McKinnon fans.
Ross rubbishes Roberts’s suggestion that McKinnon didn’t want to work between Christmas and New Year: “That’s not correct – you tell me who’d work for nothing for an ongoing period of time.”
So McKinnon was owed overdue wages? “That’s my understanding but I don’t know the figures involved or the period involved,” Ross says.
Receptionist Gray agrees: “It was about money.”
Roberts reckons McKinnon was paid in mid-December but later made “an ultimatum” – “pay me or I’ll liquidate the business”, as Roberts puts it.
“The practice is under pressure, there’s no denying that,” Roberts says, claiming he props up Midtown with new money “on a weekly basis”.
He’s livid McKinnon wrote to patients, and accuses McKinnon of trying to lure them away.
“I’m going to ring my solicitor and have a crack at [McKinnon] because he cannot expect me to finance this business then try to steal it away over some pretext of not being paid two days late.”
Nurse Ross says she’s taking legal action because she was made redundant without notice by Roberts in November.
“His motive is all about money,” she alleges – ahead of patients and staff.
Roberts claims Ross walked out because Midtown couldn’t support her part-time role becoming full-time.
Whether Midtown, based in O’Connell’s Mall, reopens is unknown – Roberts hopes to hire an agency doctor from Napier next week.
He and his former GP look likely to end their relationship as it began – with a legal battle.
Before joining Midtown when it opened last June, McKinnon worked for Queenstown Medical Centre – which tried to stop him switching.
Accusing QMC of “anti-competitive behaviour”, Roberts pledged to go to bat for McKinnon.
An out-of-court deal was soon done but not before Midtown spent $20,000 on legal fees, Roberts claims.