Dozens of cardiologists attached to Dutch hospitals are receiving millions of euros from private firms without the knowledge of their employers, current affairs programme Nieuwsuur reported on Wednesday.
The programme’s researchers combined various databases to analyse hundreds of payments to specialists and found that dozens of doctors working at ordinary, rather than teaching, hospitals were receiving substantial amounts of cash via limited companies and trusts.
Healthcare firms regularly sponsor specialists, particularly in their research, but these payments should be approved in advance by the hospital where the specialists work to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
Researchers approached nine hospitals where cardiologists received substantial sums and found that seven had not approved all the payments. Three hospitals said they were not aware that their specialists ran trusts or limited companies in the first place.
‘There is a bribery risk,’ business integrity professor Rob van Eijbergen told broadcaster NOS. ‘You have to ask if cardiologists are free and independent when choosing what resources they need, or if they have been inspired by other motives. The hospital should always act as a third party and be an extra pair of eyes when money is involved.’
Abbott was the biggest sponsor of cardiologists in the research project, with total payments of €3.7 million. Med tech company Medtronics Trading was second on the sponsor list with payments of €3 million.
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