High-paid ACC doctors in Otago

Three of four doctors in the spotlight this week for performing high numbers of assessments for ACC are based in Otago.

In Parliament, Green MP Kevin Hague said Dr Martin Robb (Wanaka), Dr David Beaumont (Central Otago), Dr Vic du Plessis (Dunedin) and Dr Bill Turner (Canterbury) were together paid up to $2 million a year for ACC work.

Each received between $300,000 and $500,000 per year, he said.

In response, ACC Minister Judith Collins told Parliament she wanted the system changed so it was viewed as independent by both ACC and claimants.

She pointed out that ACC's critics had been complaining about independent medical assessors sinceabout the year 2000.

"So I do not think much has changed, but I am happy to work with [Mr Hague] to try to get things to change." Dr du Plessis, a Southern District Health Board neurologist and rehabilitation physician, was interviewed on TV3's current affairs show 60 Minutes last Sunday about the issue.

SDHB patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said Dr du Plessis worked as a 0.8 full-time equivalent for the board. He was set to retire from the DHB next month.

Dr Beaumont and Dr Robb are registered as consultants by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, according to its website.

When contacted, Dr Beaumont declined to comment, saying the issue of independent medical assessments had been referred to ACC's board by Ms Collins.

Neither Dr du Plessis nor Dr Robb could be reached for comment.

Acclaim Otago president Dr Denise Powell said the Otago doctors' names "crop up" repeatedly in claimant surveys.

"It does not look particularly good for our area [Otago]."

"There has to be serious questions about how assessors from small South Island towns can be doing work around the country."

The independent assessment system needed reform and she was pleased it was receiving national prominence.

Mr Hague, when contacted, said Ms Collins seemed genuinely willing to reform the system and ensure ACC treated claimants reasonably in the course of receiving independent medical assessments.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz


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