Rockhampton eye surgeon David Kitchen outside the Kirkellen Street clinic where patients were turned away yesterday. Dr Kitchen says he will fight for the right to continue to work in the city.
Rockhampton eye surgeon David Kitchen outside the Kirkellen Street clinic where patients were turned away yesterday. Dr Kitchen says he will fight for the right to continue to work in the city.

Eye doc banned from own surgery

ONE of the region's leading eye surgeons was banned from his Rockhampton consulting rooms yesterday as a contractual dispute with his employer ended in acrimony.

About 50 to 70 patients a day are missing out on treatment, he says.

Some are due to have cataracts removed or receive sight-saving medical injections inside their eyes.

Their appointments were cancelled at short notice by the Vision Eye Institute in Kirkellen Street.

And the surgeon, Dr David Kitchen, said that the company was putting profit before patient care.

“This could easily cost people their sight. That's my fear. I see emergencies every day,” he said yesterday afternoon outside the surgery where he claimed a security guard had told a staff member that he would be denied access.

The company, which has its headquarters in Melbourne, says it regrets the inconvenience caused by Dr Kitchen's resignation and that it would be happy to welcome him back.

But he says he now expects a legal battle with Australia's largest provider of ophthalmic surgery over his right to practice in the city he has called home since 2007.

He vowed to stay in the city and open his own practice at the earliest opportunity.

“Patients I was due to see today have had their appointments cancelled by non-medical management. I've been denied entry to my surgery, have been unable to contact patients and patients have been turned away,” he said.

“The company is not concerned about the suffering of people who need urgent care. It is very disappointing.”

Dr Kitchen said he was working to organise rooms and borrow equipment so he could get a private practice operating as quickly as possible. And he urged patients who had appointments to contact him so he could make alternative arrangements.

He claims he had offered to continue working on an interim arrangement to ensure ongoing patient care after resigning in a contract row and was shocked at the company's decision to cancel appointments at such short notice without medical consultation.

He was supported yesterday by Dr Kim Bulwinkel, the Australian Medical Association's Capricornia representative, who called Vision Eye's actions in locking out Dr Kitchen “reprehensible.”

“The issue here is who makes decisions about patient care. We have non-medical administrators or accountants who have decided to cancel appointments when they have no right to do so.

“Dr Kitchen is one of the best eye technicians you could ever imagine and lots of people in Rockhampton owe their eyesight to him.”

A statement issued last night by Vision Group said the contractual relationship had been terminated by Dr Kitchen.

“Had he not done this, he would still be able to practice as an ophthalmologist in Vision Group's practice in Rockhampton,” it says.

“If Dr Kitchen is willing to return on the same terms as applied last week, Vision Group would gladly welcome him back to its practice.”

The statement says the group deeply regrets any inconvenience and assures patients it will continue to meet their needs and assist them to find alternative eye care.

Meanwhile, Dr Kitchen's patients are being asked to call him on 0488 694 461 or 0429 780 483.



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