From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Take it easy, doc. An interesting tip that three surgeons at Melbourne’s Western Hospital have been busted for using cocaine is correct.

Dr John Quinn, executive director of surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons confirmed the report to Crikey. Dr Quinn said two surgeons and a trainee surgeon were “involved in taking cocaine”. Dr Quinn strongly rejected the suggestion in the tip that patient health was put at risk. “It didn’t happen during work hours,” he said. “No patient care has been compromised.” The incident did not take place on hospital premises.

Dr Quinn said all three surgeons had been spoken to, and were voluntarily receiving treatment from the Victorian Doctors Health Program, which was set up to assist medical staff with such problems. He said the surgeons were continuing to work, and the College did not have disciplinary powers in this case; the Medical Board of Australia (which does have such powers) has been notified of the incident. The Medical Board of Australia told Crikey it could not comment on individual cases, but kept an online register of practitioners which indicates their status and whether they are able to practise.

Western Health’s executive director of medical services, Dr Mark Garwood, told Crikey:

“Western Health today confirmed that a range of measures had been taken to ensure that there had been no impact on patients as a result of the actions of several surgeons, who have since admitted to taking illicit drugs. The incident took place in a private residential setting, when the surgeons were off duty. As soon as Western Health became aware of these matters, a range of steps were taken to ensure that no patient had been impacted in any way. In addition, an immediate medical evaluation was undertaken to assess the individuals’ capacity to continue to conduct their professional duties. Additional monitoring has also been put in place to ensure the high standards of patient care are maintained. The trainee surgeon is no longer with Western Health.”

Nine reshuffle: Breen in, Thomson out. Confirmation today on what we’ve been speculating about for a while: Hamish Thomson is out as 60 Minutes executive producer, and Neil Breen is joining the network. The shuffle will see Breen, soon to depart News Limited as Sunday Telegraph editor, promoted from Today show commentator to boss of the program. Current EP Tom Malone has won the prized promotion to 60 Minutes, leaving Thomson out of a job (apparently Nine is trying to find him another gig). New blood will flow through the venerable program next year, with Thomson joining former EP turned consultant John Westacott out the door. As for Breen, with no television producing experience, he faces a baptism of fire as Today battles Seven’s Sunrise for ratings supremacy.

Surely it’s Keating? We enjoyed this tweet from Canberra Insider (who often seems to be on the money with gossip from inside the beltway):

Here at Tips we think that’s got Paul Keating’s fingerprints all over it. But could it be KRudd? If you know the inside story, put us out of our misery by emailing us here.

Foxtel asks audience on sport. Foxtel is doing some market research on what its audience thinks of sports coverage. A Crikey reader reports he was asked to complete an online survey assessing viewer habits for A-League soccer and domestic cricket in particular. Both sports (20/20 domestic cricket aside) don’t exactly draw big audiences on Fox Sports — could this feed into future rights negotiations?

Jolly poor show, old chap. It’s not often that we hear gossip from the polo world here at Crikey, and we rue that fact. So it’s with delight that we can report the following opinion from a mole within the well-heeled ranks of the Victoria Polo Club (that’s VPC to you plebs):

“The unfortunate VPC members, despite paying massive subscriptions are left with woefully inadequate facilities, used by members and visiting players from all over Victoria, interstate and overseas. What is worse is that the lack of funds results in the club playing fields being so poorly maintained that they present a real danger to ponies and players alike.”

We almost choked on our Pimms at that. Are the ponies really in danger? More gossip, please! Drop us a line (James Packer etc can stay anonymous by contacting us here).

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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