Fake emails, abusive messages sent using work email accounts

dark computer laptop

A health practitioner has been reprimanded after taking lengthy steps to stalk and harass a junior colleague with whom he had become infatuated

A doctor has been found guilty of professional misconduct and must practise under conditions after engaging in “devious” conduct towards a colleague.

The Hunter New England Local Health District senior registrar was in charge of supervising a junior medical officer who worked within his team.

After he asked her out and made contact several times, the junior doctor made it plain that she was not interested in pursuing a relationship with the man.

Consequently his behaviour escalated into what the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal accepted was “stalking” and “harassment” between November 2018 and January 2019.

The doctor created Gmail accounts in the names of other persons, said to be persons working or training at the hospital, for the purpose of attempting to elicit information from the junior doctor in relation to whether she had a partner or was dating.

He sent her sham emails under fictional names that created false impressions and circumstances, for example, inviting the young doctor out for dinner with a group of new registrars and asking whether she would attend alone or with a partner.

The doctor was also found to have used his Hunter New England Health email account to send himself fictional emails and joining dating websites “in order to establish a sexual profile for himself”.

He used his work account to join OkCupid and Bumble, and receive emails from Plenty of Fish.

The respondent learnt that the junior doctor had accessed a dating service, Bumble. Accordingly he sent her false messages allegedly from the dating service, requesting that she provide answers to a survey.

After learning that the junior doctor had been in a relationship with a colleague (Person B) and becoming “jealous and frustrated” as a result, the respondent then sent sham messages to that man.

He managed to deceitfully gain access to Person B’s work computer at the hospital, using it to send a false email to the junior doctor he had been stalking.

The message purported to be from Person B and made insulting personal remarks concerning the junior doctor’s appearance and was written in a way to belittle and demean her.

He then used a fake Gmail account in the name of Person B to send other abusive and derogatory emails to the junior doctor.

At the height of his “bizarre” conduct, which the Tribunal said “displays another level of deviousness”, the doctor purchased a new mobile phone and accessed the private employee records relating to the junior doctor held by the John Hunter Hospital so he could ascertain the contact details for her next of kin.

Having obtained contact details for the junior doctor’s mother, he sent her text messages under a fake name and created false circumstances to establish whether the junior doctor had a partner or was dating.

After the junior doctor relocated to Tamworth Hospital from John Hunter Hospital, approximately 400 km away, the respondent attempted to maintain contact with her.

In December 2018, he drove to the new location and searched out the junior doctor’s car in the hospital car park. He placed a DVD of the movie “The Invention of Lying” and a note on the car, and upon adjacent cars.

An apprehended violence order was issued after the car incident, and an investigation was conducted at the request of the Hunter New England Local Health District on 11 January 2019.

The doctor was suspended from his position on 18 January 2019.

In the months to follow, he expressed his remorse and regret at his conduct.

The doctor “showed a deep level of shame about his conduct with his colleague and with the breach of his employment conditions. This shame is beyond any regret he also expressed,” a psychologist found in April 2019.

A psychiatrist found the doctor showed insight into the admitted inappropriateness of his previous conduct.

“He recognises he caused unnecessary and significant distress to his work colleague and her family and that as a consequence of his behaviour he also caused his family distress,” they found.

The respondent admitted to all the complaints except that he is otherwise not a suitable person to hold registration.

The Tribunal found  his behaviour was significantly serious as it was “directed at a fellow medical professional; it was conducted from the privileged position which the respondent had as the supervisor of a more junior professional; it was calculated in a most devious way to bring an ulterior result; it was calculated and carried out deliberately.”

However it accepted that the respondent is not impaired and that recurrence of such conduct is “unlikely”.

It found that he was experiencing social isolation and limited emotional support at the time of the conduct, and he was immature and lacking experience in the development of romantic relationships.

The Tribunal accepted the conduct had arisen from his need of psychiatric help which he has now received and continues to receive.

It found that a suspension was not needed, especially as the doctor had already been suspended for almost 18 months.

The doctor was reprimanded and found guilty of professional misconduct. He was ordered to practise under the guidance of an approved supervisor and an approved mentor, and is no longer allowed to be the sole supervisor of any junior practitioner.

Furthermore, he must complete courses on workplace behaviour and conduct, and responsible communication, and attend treatment by a psychiatrist.

He was ordered to pay costs to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

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