MBS Review chair faces calls to step down over ‘goose’ speech

Published: 28 May 2019

Home » MBS Review chair faces calls to step down over ‘goose’ speech

The AMA says Professor Bruce Robinson’s comments seem to be at odds with the review’s stated aims

Anaesthetists are demanding the MBS Review chair Professor Bruce Robinson be sacked after claiming they were making a lot of money protecting their colonoscopy lists at the expense of more complex anaesthetic work.

In a blunt speech this month, Professor Robinson argued between 5% and 10% of doctors risked “cooking the MBS goose” by their continued exploitation of loopholes in MBS item descriptors to make inappropriate claims.

He went on to argue that doctors — including groups of anaesthetists — were also actively blocking his task force’s reforms because they were more interested in protecting their access to the more lucrative MBS items.

“Those [anaesthetists] who are doing the colonoscopy lists will guard them with their lives,” he declared

“Anaesthetists make a lot of money doing a list of colonoscopies, but they don’t make a lot of money doing an anaesthetic for that complicated head and neck cancer where they have massive airway protection problems, etc.

“And yet, when we tried to take those suggestions to the anaesthetists, we came out with bloody noses.

“And blow the guy who is doing the complicated stuff in the public hospital. They don’t care about that.”

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists is now far from happy, accusing Professor Robinson of harbouring a “Robin Hood complex”.

“The MBS Review is now off the rails for many specialties and should be put on hold while a new chair is appointed,” ASA spokesman Dr Andrew Miller said. “He must now resign or be sacked.

“Professor Robinson has revealed the misguided Robin Hood complex that has biased the outcomes of the MBS Review into anaesthesia.”

The society said it was already unhappy with the recommendations of the review’s expert anaesthesia clinical committee, which would result in deep cuts to rebates for many procedures.

It also said Professor Robinson, an endocrinologist and former dean of the University of Sydney’s medical school, was wrong to criticise anaesthetists with colonoscopy lists, arguing he missed the point that most anaesthetists did a variety of procedures.

“After his report into anaesthesia suggested cuts to services for the elderly, such as these with suspected bowel cancer having colonoscopies, it certainly did not propose any quid pro quo increase for patients with head and neck cancer as he claims,” Dr Miller said.

“In fact, there is up to a 50% cut waiting for those patients if his changes to Medicare are not stopped by the new government.”

The anaesthetists’ criticisms were echoed by the AMA. Last week, its federal council voted to condemn Professor Robinson’s remarks.

The comments were “unjust assertions of opinion that appear to describe a philosophy inconsistent with the stated aims and purpose of the review”, the AMA said.

“There are widespread concerns in the profession that the review is being rushed to a conclusion without regard to consequences or proper modelling,” it said.

“These opinions and philosophy, rather than rigorous data, are being influential in the outcomes and Medicare rebates for patients are in many instances under unjust attack as a result.”

Written by Geir O’Rourke click here to read the story on Australian Doctor and leave your comments.