On 27 June 2008, a Professional Conduct Committee laid a charge of professional misconduct against Mr Maurice Breeze. The charge alleged that between April 2006 and November 2007, while employed as an Occupational Therapist, Paediatrics, by Whanganui District Health Board (“DHB”) Mr Breeze:
- Failed to visit and/or attend clients as required by Whanganui DHB.
- Entered the names on Whanganui DHB records of clients indicating that he had visited them when he had not.
- Provided false information to Whanganui DHB to conceal the fact that he was not carrying out client visits or attendances, as he was required to do.
- Falsified his timesheets and submitted these to Whanganui DHB indicating that he had worked 40 hours per week when in fact he had worked for lesser hours per week ranging from shortfalls of up to 10 hours or more per week.
The Tribunal was satisfied that each of the four particulars were established and Mr Breeze was found guilty of the charge of professional misconduct.
Mr Maurice Breeze was employed as an Occupational Therapist in the Child Therapy Service at Whanganui DHB from September 2005 to November 2007. He was employed to work Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 4.30pm. His duties included the provision of occupational therapy assessment, treatment and documentation to agreed professional body and contractual guidelines, the provision of education programmes, active contribution to the Child Therapy service, maintenance of clinical competency to accepted standards and the protection of therapy services to clients on behalf of Group special Education (“GSE”) of the Ministry of Education.
In April 2006, it became apparent that Mr Breeze was not attending work for the hours for which he was employed, and that he had falsified timesheets as regards his hours.
In a meeting with hit employer on 13 April 2006, Mr Breeze admitted he had not been working full hours, that he had been taking long lunch hours on occasions and that he had been recording 40 hours each week on a time sheet. The DHB set up a plan to resolve the problems including regular supervision by an occupational therapist from within the DHB who was respected by Mr Breeze and Ms Taylor, Team Leader of Child Therapy.
The DHB undertook a further investigation in October 2007 when staff became aware that Mr Breeze was again working reduced hours. In the course of this investigation, the Team Leader investigated statistical records, reviewed clinical records, rang the mothers of some children and interviewed members of the Child Therapy Team; timesheets were checked, as was car usage. A particular concern was that there had been no, or no adequate, visits to certain children, with this failure affecting their care. At interview, Mr Breeze again admitted to working approximately 30 hours instead of 40 hours per week, falsifying time records and recording visiting patients when he had not done so. The employer decided to terminate Mr Breeze’s employment on 9 November 2007.
Reasons for Finding
The Tribunal was satisfied that each of the four particulars of the charge were made out and that Mr Breeze’s conduct amounted to malpractice, negligence and discredit to the profession; being conduct which was significantly below accepted standards and which could have impacted on children who were patients.
Generally, the Tribunal said of the matters which are the subject of the charge that:
- The conduct continued for a lengthy period of time.
- It involved monetary gain on the part of Mr Breeze.
- Children were knowingly neglected.
- Mr Breeze maintained his conduct, notwithstanding that he was warned not to do so.
- The employer made sensible efforts to provide support and supervision, and yet the behaviours continued.
- There was a lack of responsibility and accountability.
Given these factors, the Tribunal was satisfied there was not only dishonesty, but also an overall lack of competence and commitment on the part of Mr Breeze. The Tribunal concluded that the conduct reached the threshold of professional misconduct and as such, discipline was warranted; in order to protect the public, uphold standards and to punish.
The Tribunal considered that the range of concerns which arose from the offending were not such as could be dealt with merely by suspension and the imposition of conditions. Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, the only sensible approach was cancellation of his registration, albeit with a recognition that Mr Breeze may decide to apply for re-registration as a later time.
The Tribunal made an order of censure; and expressed its strong disapproval for the conduct, which occurred in this case. Mr Breeze was ordered to pay costs of $2,500 in respect of the costs and expenses of the Tribunal and $4,500 in respect of the costs incurred by the PCC.
The Tribunal further ordered that a summary of its decision be published in the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand’s Annual Report and in the Board’s newsletter and on the Tribunal’s website.