AHPRA has successfully prosecuted a former medical practitioner for claiming a member of his staff was a registered health practitioner when they were not
Former GP Roger Bernard has pleaded guilty and been convicted in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria at Sunshine of seven charges of recklessly claiming that one of his staff members was a registered health practitioner when they were not.
Mr Bernard also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of recklessly using a title in circumstances which indicated that the staff member was registered as a medical practitioner.
He has been fined $16,500 as a result of the prosecution.
The staff member, Phoebe Pacheco, was not and never has been registered with the Medical Board of Australia.
The charges were brought by AHPRA which, as part of its investigation, found Ms Pacheco saw patients at a medical clinic run by Mr Bernard in Werribee between 16 June and 3 November 2016.
Patients at the clinic included those seeking medical treatment, cosmetic treatment and/or a mix of both medical and cosmetic consultations.
When he was registered as a medical practitioner, Mr Bernard’s registration was subject to conditions.
The offending by Mr Bernard and Ms Pacheco came to light when AHPRA’s compliance officers were monitoring Mr Bernard’s compliance with those conditions.
Ms Pacheco pleaded guilty in relation to her offending in February 2018 and was fined $7,500 and ordered to pay costs of $20,000. A conviction was not recorded by the court.
The National Law establishes a number of offences for companies or individuals who represent themselves, or others to be registered health practitioners, without being registered to practise in a health profession or recognised specialty.
At sentencing, Mr Bernard was ordered to pay costs to AHPRA of $27,617 in addition to the $16,500 fine.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher credited the diligent work of the compliance officers in monitoring Mr Bernard.
“Our staff work hard every day to help protect the public. In this case our compliance staff acted quickly so we could investigate,” he said.
“This also meant we could quickly get the message out to patients. At the time we worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, publishing information to alert patients who had attended the Werribee clinic.”
Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, said this case shows that the National Scheme is protecting patients.
“Patients trust their doctors and have a right to expect safe care from qualified practitioners. The Board will take action when anyone abuses that trust.”