The competition and consumer watchdog has started court action against a private and public hospital operator, alleging they tried to lessen competition in day surgery markets in Wagga Wagga.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched proceedings in the Federal Court against Little Company of Mary Health Care and its subsidiary Calvary Health Riverina, alleging they breached the competition act.
The ACCC has alleged Calvary introduced by-laws in March 2011 which allowed them to refuse the right of a medical practitioner to use its facilities if the doctor became involved in a business in competition with Calvary.
"We're alleging this was done with the purpose of substantially lessening competition," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
A spokeswoman said Little Company of Mary Health Care and Calvary Health Care Riverina were "surprised and disappointed" the ACCC had commenced proceedings.
"LCMHC gave consideration to the legal implications of the arrangements in question, both at the time of entry into those arrangements and again in the context of the ACCC's investigation of those arrangements and understands the arrangements are consistent with those utilised by other major health care providers," she said.
"While LCMHC and CHCR fully co-operated with the ACCC's investigation, we remain of the view that these arrangements and our conduct is in accordance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
"LCMHC and CHCR are carefully considering the application and our response."
Mr Sims said the ACCC had focused its attention on the day surgery market, particularly in Wagga Wagga.
"The ACCC is concerned that by-laws or contractual conditions of this kind applied by a significant national health organisation could prevent the establishment of new day surgeries," he said.
"The consequence of this would be to limit the availability of day surgery procedures to consumers."
Mr Sims said the investigation had been triggered by complaints.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations and costs.
The matter is listed for a directions hearing in Sydney in February.