An unregistered “health practitioner” who operated a naturopath business has been permanently prohibited from offering any health services
The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission says it investigated a number of complaints about the conduct of the unregistered practitioner, Aleksander Strande, including one from a senior Health policy officer.
Mr Strande was operating a naturopath business, “Express Healing” from his residential home in Kogarah, NSW, which offered herbal treatment for pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and other health conditions, in addition to Reiki healing to “relax, decongest and oxygenate the body”.
He treated clients out of rooms situated at the rear of his residential property; claimed to use iridology to diagnose patients; and had provided both face-to-face and phone consultations to patients interstate and overseas.
The Health Care Complaints Commission noted that Mr Strande had a “considerable” Internet profile and on True Local, listed Express Healing’s motto as, “Don’t get drug, get heal”.
“Some of the problems listed are mental problems, cancers and tumours and also auto immune diseases,” it noted in its decision. “The page also makes mention of the patient testimonials that can be located at the Express Healing website.”
It noted a prior complaint against Mr Strande, in which a client took herbs the practitioner had given him and became “very unwell,” and was transported to hospital by ambulance.
“The hospital indicated that an ingredient in the herbs had reacted with the patient’s prescribed antidepressant medication,” it observed. “Upon becoming aware of the client’s hospitalisation, Mr Strande did not offer him an apology and instead told the client that if he did not continue treatment with him, he would revert back to pain and suffering.”
This client had also queried the fact that Mr Strande was using different names in his practice: including “Aleksander Wieslaw Strande Kowlowski,” while advertising referred to him as “Alex Maestro;” signage in the practice identified him as “Aleksander Strande;” and the contact on his website was “Alex Strand”.
However he later withdrew the complaint and as a result, the Commission was limited in the action it could take against Mr Strande.
New complaints from various people sparked an investigation which found that Mr Strande had wilfully misrepresented and overstated, both to the Commission and the public, the level of his qualifications and his competence to treat serious illness.
For example, he claimed to have a Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Australian College of Natural Medicine in Brisbane. The College confirmed he had a Diploma of Applied Science (Naturopathy) but that it has never offered a Masters level qualification.
The investigation also found that Mr Strande made claims about the efficacy of the recommended treatment when those claims could not be substantiated.
It said he lacks the knowledge and expertise to determine whether the products he provides to clients may have adverse reactions with their prescribed medications.
It also said that he failed to provide information to clients regarding the herbal medicines and pressured his clients to continue treatment with him despite their complaints of adverse side effects; and that he was unwilling to seriously reflect on his practice and has no insight into the limitations of his training and qualifications and his competence to treat serious illnesses.
The investigation determined that Mr Strande breached numerous clauses of the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners under Schedule 3 of the Public Health Regulation 2012.
A person identified as Person A said that after he decided to terminate the therapeutic relationship, Mr Strande said that, “If you stop seeing me you will be committing suicide”.
A person identified as Person B’s complaint was from a Senior Policy Officer for the ACT Health Directorate who had conducted a search for “cancer cure” and was concerned with a number of aspects of the Express Health website.
These included an article which stated, “A lot of cancers were healed using natural substances such as…” and “Don’t even start trying to heal cancer if you don’t understand natural therapeutic doses of plants and minerals”.
Patient testimonials on the website revealed claims that Mr Strande had cured vaginal, stomach and bladder cancers, and saved the life of a person with Stage 4 prostate cancer.
“Mr Strande is the person who records the testimonials and his voice can be heard in the background and he often prompts the patients,” the decision notes.
Further statements on the Express Healing website include, “Stroke Recovery—Why would someone settle for years of recovery when this condition can be solved within weeks or months! It’s cruel to say but some people are just in love with their disease;” and “Only natural remedies can cure Eczema. Prescription drugs and classic medical protocols have not been successful in controlling the symptoms of Eczema”.
The complaint of Person C explained that she had been treated for breast cancer and received a one year clear mammogram and ultrasound report; Mr Strande told her that cancer was still circulating around her body and dismissed the clear reports, the Commission said.
She told him she was taking an anti-depressant and could not take St John’s Wort as it was contraindicated; he gave her supplements and told her he had not prescribed this ingredient. However she began to experience an “unusual sensation” in her hands and face; when she asked Mr Strande about whether the herbs he gave her included the ingredient, she said he shouted at her and said she had a “psychosis”.
Upon Googling her symptoms she found information stating that they were consistent with an interaction between St John’s Wort and her antidepressant.
Further complaints stated he consulted on and charged for treatment of drug dependence – charging around $2,300 for five Skype consults for this patient – and for anorexia nervosa, in which case seven consults (plus supplements and postage) were billed at $6,181.
A large number of patients complained that Mr Strande sent them medication and charged their credit cards without authorisation.
One email to Mr Strande complained of an unanticipated charge of $655 for unexpected supplements.
In its decision, the Commission said it was concerned that vulnerable people with complex health needs could make detrimental health care decisions based on Mr Strande’s advice.
It said he had “made dangerous health claims on his business website regarding his ability to cure complex medical conditions including cancer, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and hepatitis”.
“Further, Mr Strande portrays himself as superior to mainstream health care practitioners and encourages his clients to forgo prescribed medications and adopt his treatment regime.
“The misinformation promoted by Mr Strande has huge potential to have a detrimental effect on the health of vulnerable individuals suffering from these conditions.”
It said it was satisfied that Mr Strande poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.
It decided he would be permanently prohibited from providing any health services, as defined in s4 Of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.