The consumer watchdog has started Federal Court action against Ramsay Health Care, alleging that the private hospitals operator engaged in anti-competitive conduct at Coffs Harbour.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges that Ramsay threatened to block some surgeons’ access to operating theatres at its Baringa Private Hospital and Coffs Harbour Day Surgery if they proceeded with plans to establish a competing Coffs Harbour day surgery.
“The ACCC alleges that Ramsay sought to preserve its position in day surgery services in the Coffs Harbour region by making threats to reduce or withdraw individual surgeons’ access to operating theatres at Baringa Hospital,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement on Monday.
“It is alleged that the surgeons suspended their plans to establish a competing day surgery facility as a result of these threats.”
Ramsay Health said it took its obligations under competition law seriously and had co-operated with an ACCC investigation.
“Ramsay intends to vigorously defend the matter,” the company said on Monday.
“As this matter is now before the court, Ramsay will not be making any further comment on the allegations other than as required to keep the market informed in accordance with its continuous disclosure obligations.”
Mr Sims said the ACCC was taking action against Ramsay because misuse of market power and other anti-competitive practices could cause significant harm to consumers and other businesses.
The ACCC is seeking penalties, declarations, compliance orders and costs.
Shares in Ramsay Health Care were $1.45, or 2.02 per cent, lower at $70.25 at 1500 AEST.