Banned therapist had ‘grossly inadequate’ training

tribunal hearing legal case

An “over-confident” unregistered health practitioner has been banned from providing dry needling services after his treatment caused a woman’s lung to collapse

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has advised that the practitioner, who provides services as a clinical nutritionist and massage therapist, should not provide the therapy until he has completed approved education around it.

Dry needling is an alternative medicine treatment which has some similarities to acupuncture.

A woman identified by the NSW HCCC as Person A went to the practitioner’s Beautiful Health and Wellness Clinic in suburban Sydney in March 2018.

After receiving dry needling therapy, she began to feel unwell and experienced difficulty breathing.

She was taken to hospital soon after by ambulance, and ambulance officers noted that she was experiencing trouble breathing, and pain in her right lung when exhaling.

She was given painkillers but after waiting for four hours without being seen, she left the hospital.

The next day she went to a GP who requested an urgent X-ray, which was performed; upon examining the X-ray, the GP told her to go straight to hospital.

She was later diagnosed as suffering a right-sided pneumothorax – a collapsed lung – and spent three days in hospital. Over this period more than 600mL of air was taken out of her chest cavity by needle aspiration.

She complained to the HCCC that one of the needles placed into her back by the practitioner had pierced her lung, and said that at the time she made the complaint, she was still in “constant” pain and required regular medication.

Patient A was in a very low risk category for spontaneous pneumothorax and her specialist thoracic surgeon described the injury as a traumatic pneumothorax secondary to acupuncture.

The HCCC conducted an investigation and found that the man’s training and qualifications for providing dry needling services – particularly in the thoracic area and without supervision – were “grossly inadequate”.

The investigation found that the practitioner did not provide health services to Patient A in a safe and ethical manner and his record keeping of his care and treatment of Patient A was inadequate.

It also found that he had breached the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Practitioners by providing treatment that was outside the scope of his training and experience.

The investigation also concluded that the practitioner lacked insight into his limitations as a provider of dry needling therapy, though he now accepts that his treatment of Patient A caused her to suffer a pneumothorax, and recognises that his previous over-confidence in his ability and competency as a dry needling practitioner was misplaced given the “very limited” nature of his training.

Due to the nature of the breaches of the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners found proven by the Commission and the practitioner’s limited insight into his limitations as a practitioner, the Commission finds that he poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.

He has been prohibited from providing dry needling services, whether on a paid or voluntary basis, unless and until he satisfies the Commission that he has completed an Approved Program of Study recognised by the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia.

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