A snapshot of registered health practitioner misconduct in Victoria: April 2022

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By Stuart Eustice, Partner & Holly White, Lawyer

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v VQK [2022] VCAT 375 & Paramedicine Board of Australia v VQK [2022] VCAT 382 (6 April 2022)
A man holding two registrations (nurse and paramedic) was reprimanded and suspended for six months following a plea of guilty to a charge of stalking his former domestic partner.

His conduct occurred following his suicide attempt after the victim ended their relationship. He also took the victim’s mobile phone, positing explicit photos of her on social media and sending messages purporting to be from her admitting responsibility for his suicide. If a practitioner is charged with an offence punishable by 12 months’ imprisonment or more, they are required to notify the Board within seven days of becoming aware of the charge, something the man also failed to do. The Tribunal considered a six-month suspension appropriate in circumstances where the man’s actions, while very serious, occurred over a short timeframe and in light of his mental health problems.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v AVP [2022] VCAT 360 (5 April 2022)
A registered nurse was reprimanded and had her registration cancelled with a six-month disqualification period imposed after the Tribunal found she had engaged in professional misconduct. She had already been suspended for nearly three years prior to hearing. Two patients made allegations to Victoria Police that the nurse had engaged in sexual behaviour with them over a five-month period. No charges were laid however the nurse had breached her professional boundaries. Relevant factors considered by the Tribunal included the nurse’s gender identity, history of trauma and psychological evidence at hearing that the nurse was of low risk of further misconduct. The Tribunal considered making an order prohibiting the nurse from providing health services however decided it was unduly punitive.

Psychology Board of Australia v Frances (No 2) [2021] VCAT 571 (12 April 2022)
A registered psychologist was reprimanded for failing to properly manage a foreseeable risk of a multiple relationship with two clients. In addition, she failed to keep accurate records, acted outside the scope of clinical practice by engaged in advocacy on behalf of the clients and failed to seek appropriate peer consultation. Prior to the hearing, for almost four years, the psychologist had engaged in robust professional supervision as required by conditions imposed on her registration under immediate action. As such, the Tribunal considered a reprimand appropriate and imposed no further conditions.

Lahanis v Medical Board of Australia [2022] VCAT 427 (19 April 2022)
A GP successfully challenged an immediate action decision to suspend his registration pending a decision regarding allegations of inappropriate behaviour during a consultation including sexual advance while performing intimate physical examinations. Although the Tribunal considered immediate action was necessary, it held the imposition of chaperone conditions were suitable and effective. The GP will be allowed to practice with conditions pending the final review hearing.

Medical Board of Australia v Lodhi [2022] VCAT 439 (22 April 2022)
A doctor was reprimanded and suspended for two months after writing Oxycodone prescriptions in the name of a friend for his own use while working in hospitals and providing misleading information to the regulator during an immediate action hearing. The Tribunal stated:

‘This case illustrates the hazards for doctors, including international medical graduates such as the respondent in this proceeding, who may find themselves drawn to self-prescribing controlled substances, thinking that they can manage overwhelming stress themselves by doing so. It underlines the importance of ‘putting your hand up’ for help before you put your career at risk. And it provides an example of the important role that pharmacists play in identifying unlawful prescribing.’

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