Deception allowed doc to be in ‘two places at once’


tribunal hearing legal case

A doctor has been reprimanded and disqualified from practice after he allowed an unqualified and unregistered person to act as a doctor

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that the doctor had held out an employee at his practice as a registered medical practitioner and as a person able to use the title “medical doctor”.

He had delegated and referred patients to the woman, and knowingly allowed her to consult and/or treat patients.

However, he either knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that she was not a registered health practitioner at all.

She had overseas medical qualifications, but in Australia had unsuccessfully applied for registration as a nurse. As a result, she had no form of registration to practise in Australia.

However, she had written prescriptions under the doctor’s name for blood pressure medication, malaria treatment, stroke-related medicine and dermal fillers, the Tribunal heard.

She had carried out vaginal swabs and skin checks – including on a teenager who had already seen their GP and wanted a second opinion – administered injections to treat varicose veins and administered filler.

These items were charged as though the doctor had been the provider, in most cases while he was seeing other patients.

“It effectively allowed him to be in two places at once,” the Tribunal noted.

It noted that the conduct in the allegations had included “deception in almost every aspect of the practice of medicine,” including the deception of patients, of Medicare and the regulator.

It also involved “deception of the pharmacists who dispensed medication and the pathologists and radiologists who carried out pathology and imaging requests,” the Tribunal noted.

The doctor had previously faced criminal proceedings regarding this issue, and in November 2018 had pleaded guilty to and was convicted of seven charges for knowingly claiming an unregistered person was registered.

The woman was also prosecuted for related offences.

The doctor had not worked as a medical practitioner since November 2016, and at the time of the hearing was not registered: his registration had been suspended in November 2016, and that suspension had been revoked by the Board when it instead accepted his surrender of registration in April 2020.

VCAT also found that the doctor had failed to practise medicine ethically and safely, in that he possessed pre-signed blank prescription forms; pre-signed blank radiology and pathology request forms; incorrectly stored medications, including Schedule 4 drugs of dependence; possessed expired medications; and had inappropriate and inadequate arrangements for the disposal of sharps.

He had also made a false and/or misleading statement to AHPRA, the Tribunal found.

The Tribunal also took into account the doctor’s disciplinary history, including the fact that he had previously been found guilty of criminal offending and been removed rom practice for three years.

“The decision followed convictions in 1998 for serious fraud, unrelated to his medical practice,” it said.

This fraud had involved more than 1,000 cheques written between October 1994 and August 1995, which had been passed to create the illusion of credit balances. He had been sentenced to periodic detention over these past offences.

The Tribunal noted that he was already subject to regulatory action at the time he was holding out his employee as a medical practitioner.

“In 2014, the Tasmanian Medical Board imposed conditions on his registration requiring him to have a chaperone present when he was performing intimate examinations, amongst other health related conditions,” it said. “He was later cautioned by AHPRA, in 2019, for breaches of the conditions in 2015— failing to record the chaperone details correctly.”

It also noted that the doctor had suffered from bipolar disorder.

The doctor admitted the allegations, and was reprimanded, and disqualified from applying for registration as a medical practitioner for two years.

The Tribunal noted that it was aware that this disqualification meant the practitioner would have been out of practice for just under six and a half years by the time he was able to apply for re-registration… but “We also recognise that, as his counsel noted, he already faces considerable hurdles in becoming re-registered including recency of practice requirements”.

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