On 26 October 2018 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Dr S, medical practitioner (the Doctor).
The charge contained four particulars. The first three particulars alleged that the Doctor prescribed medications for herself or in the names of family members for those family members or for herself. The PCC alleged that each of these particulars either separately or cumulatively amounted to professional misconduct.
The fourth particular alleged that the Doctor was convicted on a charge of driving with excess alcohol and a further charge of failing to stop when required to do so by a law enforcement officer and that this conduct reflected adversely on the practitioner’s fitness to practise.
The hearing proceeded on the basis of an Agreed Summary of Facts.
The Tribunal found the facts established and that the charges were made out except for the particular of the conviction charge relating to failing to stop. This particular did not qualify for consideration under section 100(2) of the HPCA Act as the maximum penalty for the conviction was below the requirement of imprisonment of a term of three months or longer.
The charge was serious. Prescribing any drugs to family members, particularly drugs of dependence, is of concern because of the lack of objectivity on the part of the medical practitioner which in turn could lead to serious consequences for the family member.
The Tribunal censured the Doctor and fined her $5,000. Conditions were imposed for a period of three years. The Tribunal also recommended the Medical Council’s Health Committee carry out a comprehensive assessment of the Doctor’s health needs and a comprehensive review of the Doctor’s current health management programme.
Costs of $17,000 were awarded against the Doctor and an order of permanent name suppression of the name of the Doctor and any identifying features including her health issues was made.
The Tribunal exempted from the name suppression order publication by the Medical Council referring to the Tribunal decision on the Doctor’s formal record and the Doctor herself from informing any prospective employer of the Tribunal’s decision. The Medical Council was also able to refer to the decision when responding to any legitimate enquiry by or on behalf of a party considering employing the Doctor.
The Tribunal further directed publication of its decision and a summary.