‘Aggressive and inappropriate use of medications.’

tribunal hearing legal case

Doc takes medical board to health practitioners tribunal over finding of unsatisfactory professional performance

A doctor has lost an appeal after taking the Tasmanian Board of the Medical Board of Australia before the Health Practitioners Tribunal over a panel decision.

On 10 February 2016 the Performance and Professional Standards Panel handed down its decision that the doctor – a specialist geriatrician – had behaved in a way that constituted unsatisfactory professional performance relating to her treatment of 12 patients.

The panel imposed a reprimand together with 23 conditions on the doctor’s registration.

It made several findings including that her record keeping and documentation was unsatisfactory; that her decision making was excessively hasty and not fully considered—as a result, a fracture in one patient was nearly missed prior to the patient’s discharge.

The panel found she had failed to adequately discuss, communicate and consult with the family in relation to a patient’s care, and had failed to properly make a diagnosis with regards to several patients.

It also found there was an inappropriate precipitous acceleration of treatment and aggressive use of medications to sedate in three patients, and that the doctor demonstrated diagnostic uncertainties regarding the cessation of antibiotics.

The panel was not satisfied that one of her treatment decisions, which was effectively to “wait and see”, was well founded on medical grounds. It found the doctor failed to assess, diagnose, treat and manage this patient or to discern whether and when to order diagnostic tests.

Before the tribunal this year, the doctor appealed against the finding that she behaved in a way that constituted unsatisfactory professional performance, as well as the imposition of a reprimand and the imposition of conditions on her registration as a medical practitioner.

The tribunal conducted a thorough review of the evidence, including several interviews and statements from a variety of experts.

In order to justify a finding of unsatisfactory performance it must be satisfied as to that matter on the balance of probabilities, it said, with the degree of persuasion required “affected by the seriousness of the allegations made”.

However following its review of the evidence, the tribunal found the panel’s decision was the “correct and preferable result” and also upheld the reprimand.

“In our view, given the nature of the allegations and the findings made, a caution would trivialise [the doctor’s] conduct whereas a reprimand would not. A reprimand is therefore appropriate,” said the tribunal.

Relating to the 23 original conditions, including supervised education and mentorship, the tribunal said: “Given the findings of the panel which this tribunal has endorsed, we do not believe the conditions are unwarranted.

“They might be onerous but their purpose is to secure the maintenance of proper professional standards. We believe their imposition will achieve that purpose.

“The tribunal therefore confirms the panel’s decision.”

A stay imposed by the tribunal since 2016 with respect to the initial conditions was lifted.

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