industrial relations

Doctor accuses Geelong Hospital of unfair dismissal after blowing whistle on first-class flights

Patrick Stafford /

A doctor is accusing a Victorian hospital of unfair dismissal, claiming he was let go after drawing attention to a colleague who was allegedly taking business class flights to New York on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.

Dr Mark Colson of Geelong Hospital appeared before Fair Work Australia yesterday, arguing the hospital started perusing his billing procedures after he blew the whistle on his colleague.

That investigation then led to him being accused of false billing claims in March of last year, he said, which ultimately led to his dismissal.

In a statement, Geelong Hospital told SmartCompany it won’t be making any formal comment, “as to do so may prejudice legal proceedings”.

“Dr Colson has exercised his right to challenge his dismissal with Fair Work Australia and we will let the matter be decided in that forum.”

At a hearing yesterday, the tribunal heard Colson received a letter last year from the deputy director of anaesthesia, Colin Gordon, accusing Colson of inaccurately filling out paperwork for after-hours billing.

He wrote back, sending the letter to all his colleagues as well, referencing the alleged flight to New York.

”There are 42 specialists in this department. Anyone who believes that you rolled your 42-sided dice and my number just happened to come up probably also believes that Al Capone’s only crime was tax-evasion,” Colson wrote, according to Fairfax.

It was the whistle-blowing that led to the investigation into his billing procedures, Colson argues.

Colson also said since reporting the flights in 2007, he had been threatened with accusations of absenteeism. He was dismissed in May, which Geelong Hospital argued was for refusing to change his billing procedures, and also for inappropriate behavior.

The hospital also argued the letter sent to his colleagues contained unrelated material that was designed as a threat. It was this behavior that contributed to Colson’s dismissal, it argued.

SmartCompany contacted Colson’s lawyer, Justin Griffin, but no reply was available before publication. Griffin said last week he believes Colson should be reinstated.

”There are absolutely no allegations either in this proceeding or otherwise that cast any doubt on Dr Colson’s professional performance. In fact, Fair Work will be told next week that Mark’s performance as an anesthetist has never been challenged,” he told Fairfax.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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