Professor Thomas Kossmann, director of Trauma Surgery at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, been suspended after fellow doctors complained about his work. He has been in charge for the last six years.
The allegations against him include suggestions that he has operated unnecessarily and excessively on road crash victims, and that he has been ripping the system whereby the government pays for operations that result from car accidents.
The hospital in Victoria is administered by the state Metropolitan Health Service and boasts of a number of specialties.
The Age, a leading newspaper, reports:
. A series of slides prepared by an overseas surgeon in 2004 about his stint at The Alfred trauma centre say some procedures were "a bit over the top" and motivated by money from the Transport Accident Commission (which pays for medical treatment of road crash victims).
. Since 2004, several surgeons have avoided operating with Professor Kossmann. A hospital memo dated February 2, 2005, instructs staff members to assist him whenever requested.
. A document dated 10 February, 2005, refers to the dispute between Professor Kossmann and a senior surgeon. It records Professor Rosenfeld telling the surgeon that "you are aware that these issues are being discussed at the highest management levels of The Alfred."
. A document dated August 31, 2005, by Professor Rosenfeld and copied to senior managers, refers to a decision not to renew the contract of the surgeon who earlier criticised Professor Kossmann. It notes the surgeon's belief he had been victimised for being a "whistle-blower."
The chief executive of the Alfred Hospital, Jennifer Williams told The Age that the dispute between Professor Kossmann and the senior surgeon centred on a personal issue rather than patient care. The 2004 case was an isolated incident that Professor Kossmann had defended, she said.
"There were not specific complaints that we were asked to investigate, and I think you are drawing a long bow," she said.
Asked by a local radio correspondent on what she would like to say to the patients operated on by Kossmann, she replied, "If any patients have any concerns, they should ring us and we will get our perioperative coordinator to speak to them. But please be reassured that this is an inquiry about one trauma surgeon, and the Alfred is backed by an expert team of clinicians that are delivering expert and outstanding outcomes for patients."
Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the situation was one of the most serious to hit Victoria's public health system in years.
"Apart from the issue of Professor Kossmann and his activities, what also should be fully investigated is the role of hospital management, how they have responded to the complaints over the past number of years that we have been alerted to," Ms Shardey said.
Premier John Brumby said he supported the decision to suspend Professor Kossmann. But he said a wider inquiry was not necessary as the hospital had taken appropriate action.