A doctor who was convicted of Medicare fraud, and struck off for using cocaine and meth – and illegally prescribing S8 drugs – has had his bid for reinstatement rejected
A NSW GP, 62, has had his application to be reinstated on the AHPRA register of medical practitioners rejected by a tribunal.
In a recent hearing, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that the GP had been convicted of 64 counts of Medicare fraud in 2007.
He was found to have made claims for payments for consultations which never occurred.
Following this he was sentenced to a three-year good behaviour bond, to perform 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay back Medicare Australia $9,453.70.
A condition of his conviction was to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed the doctor with bipolar disorder and depression – a condition he reportedly had experienced for decades.
A few years later in November 2009, police attended the doctor’s residence on a break-and-enter report, and discovered a large amount of prescription medications and numerous prescription pads, which he claimed belonged to someone else.
These pads were shown as bearing the name of seven other practitioners.
Police also discovered small quantities of cocaine and methyl-amphetamine, as well as a collection of pipes consistent with use for the smoking of the latter.
The doctor admitted to have been using the drugs.
They also found a sum of $490,000 in cash, which the GP denied was his and said he had allowed a “friend” to store in his home.
In October 2010, the Medical Tribunal of NSW made an order removing his name from the register based on a finding of professional misconduct.
This decision was based on conclusions that the doctor had engaged in self-administration of cocaine and methyl-amphetamine, and failed to disclose his addiction to those who carried out investigations on behalf of the Board.
Additionally, he was found to have prescribed Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 restricted substances to people with drug addictions, without the proper authority.
In a hearing held in July this year before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the doctor asserted that he had overcome his drug addiction and that he was now a “fit and proper person” to resume the practice of medicine.
Before the tribunal the doctor expressed remorse for his conduct and the consequences of that conduct, for his illicit drug use and for failing his obligations to his patients.
He admitted to problematic consumption of alcohol, although he said he had ceased using it in 2007.
He said he had attempted to make amends by assisting his community, adding that he had gained insight which would help him to not repeat his mistakes.
However the tribunal found there was “little or no evidence” to support his submission other than the doctor’s assertions.
Despite maintaining that he was no longer using illicit substances, the GP tested positive for methadone in May 2017.
He asserted that his bipolar disorder was in remission or no longer in existence, although he was reportedly still claiming the disability pension on the basis of the bipolar diagnosis.
Two expert witnesses told the tribunal that the doctor had limited capacity for insight.
The tribunal also cited concerns about how the doctor came to be in possession of the $490,000, and found his explanation concerning his possession of apparent use of prescription pads of other doctors as “inconsistent” and “unsatisfactory”.
It stated that the GP had failed to put forward an appropriate professional supervisor, and had not clearly discussed any future professional or personal plans with either of his proposed supervisors.
Some positive references were provided on behalf of the doctor.
The tribunal found while the referees were aware the doctor had been de-registered, they did not have detailed knowledge of the tribunal determinations.
“The tribunal is concerned that after the eight years which has elapsed since the last tribunal hearing and decision, [the GP] still has not accepted the gravity of his previous conduct nor made the necessary personal changes,” it stated.
The GP’s evidence contained “little to show or identify what he had done to address issues and problems identified in the past,” it added.
The tribunal imposed a three-year period barring the doctor from applying for re-registration, with costs to be paid to the Medical Council of NSW.
This period should allow the doctor to receive appropriate therapy, show the necessary personal changes and insight, as well as demonstrate abstinence of alcohol and drugs through a chain of testing, the tribunal said.