On 19 and 20 July 2021, 4 October 2021 and 9 March 2022 the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal heard a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) appointed by the Dental Council of New Zealand against Saad Abdul-Hassan Ali Al-Mozany, registered dentist formerly of Auckland (the dentist).
The charge alleged that the dentist:
Between on or around January 2018 and December 2018, conducted himself in an inappropriate and/or unprofessional manner in relation to patients in that he:
- Did not put the interests of his patients first by failing to:
- attend scheduled patient appointments, and/or
- provide ongoing care to patients; and/or
- provide orthodontic plates paid for by patients; and/or
- Put patient care at risk by failing to:
- regularly monitor orthodontic treatment; and/or.
- provide dental records when requested; and/or
- respond to patient enquiries; and/or
- Did not communicate with patients in an open and transparent way by failing to:
- communicate when he was not available to see patients; and/or
- respond to phone calls and/or emails from patients regarding their treatment and/or appointments.
In acting in the manner alleged, the dentist breached his professional and ethical obligations including (without limitation) the Dental Council’s Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners. The conduct alleged above separately or cumulatively amounts to professional misconduct pursuant to s 100(1)(a) and/or s 100(1)(b) of the Act.
The charge related to 14 patients who reported, or their parents reported, very similar behaviours by the dentist including failure to keep appointments and cancellation of appointments at the last minute. They had many instances of trying to contact the dentist without success.
The majority of patients paid for their treatment in advance but many of the treatments were left uncompleted. Refunds were promised but save for one exception, were not paid.
There were at least three incidents of efforts by the dentist to discourage patients from bringing or pursuing their complaints against him.
In several cases, the treatment provided, was not appropriate. There were cases where the treatment provided or not provided, had harmful consequences.
When at the end of 2018 the dentist abandoned his Auckland practice, he made no effective attempt to ensure his patients would receive ongoing care or treatment. Some patients were left to look after themselves without access to their treatment records.
The hearing commenced on 19 July 2021. Every effort had been made to contact the dentist, however he did not respond. On the second day of the hearing, the dentist contacted the Tribunal to say he had only just become aware of the hearing as a result of publicity in the New Zealand media. The hearing was adjourned and a separate hearing was held on 4 October 2021 in respect of the procedural issues raised by the dentist. Despite the dentist’s assertions to the contrary the Tribunal found that the dentist had been aware of the matter before the substantive hearing. He had the opportunity to defend the charge, but chose not to do so until publicity about the matter caused him to reconsider that decision.
The substantive hearing resumed and concluded on 9 March 2022.
The Tribunal found that Particular 1 and its sub-particulars established. It found that 1. c. was particularly serious. There was a lack of morality and the dentist placed his commercial interests over the health of his patients.
The Tribunal found that Particular 2 and its sub-particulars established. The culpability of the dentist’s conduct was also assessed in the context of a reminder from the Dental Council following concerns raised by another orthodontic specialist. The Council reminded the dentist of his responsibility to comply with the Council’s Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners, comprising ethical principles, professional standards and practice standards set by the Council. The dentist ignored the Council’s warning.
The Tribunal found that Particular 3 and its sub-particulars established. It found that the dentist’s failures demonstrated a serious disregard for the interests of his patients.
Taking all the above conduct into account the Tribunal did not see the conduct as being mere negligence or inadvertence. The Tribunal considered that the conduct fell within s.100(1)(a) in the sense that it was immoral, unethical and profoundly in breach of the dentist’s professional duties. The conduct was also of a kind that was likely to bring the profession into disrepute; s.100(1)(b).
The Tribunal ordered:
- Cancellation of registration;
- A contribution to the costs incurred by the PCC of $57,500 equating to 40% of all PCC costs up to 31 July 2021 and 90% of all PCC costs thereafter;
- A contribution to the costs incurred by the Tribunal of $41,500, equating to 40% of all Tribunal costs up to 31 July 2021 and 90% of all Tribunal costs thereafter.
The Tribunal directed publication of the decision and a summary.