The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by the Director of Proceedings of the Health and Disability Commissioner against Mr Peter Chum, registered physiotherapist of Christchurch (the Physiotherapist).
The charge alleged that:
1. In response to a referral to review the patient’s “laryngeal and cervical muscle tension which may be influencing voicing and swallowing” the physiotherapist attended the patient’s home where he breached professional boundaries when he:
- Advised the patient to take everything off, and/or
- Failed to ask the patient to put some clothing back on when he realised the patient was naked; and/or
- Proceeded to massage the patient’s lower back and/or pelvic and/or upper and/or inner thigh areas despite her nakedness; and/or
- Failed to adequately drape the patient during the massage; and/or
- Asked the patient if he could massage her clitoral area; and/or
- Engaged in sexualised conversation with the patient.
2. Departed from accepted standards of care in that when treating suspected muscle tension dysphonia (MTD) and/or breathing pattern dysfunction (BPD) at a first consultation in that:
- Soft tissue massage to lower back and/or pelvic and/or upper thigh areas was not appropriate treatment; and/or
- Soft tissue massage to the inner thigh was not appropriate treatment; and/or
- These muscle groups and/or areas are not areas to be focused on and/or treated; and/or
- Providing soft tissue massage despite the patient’s nakedness, that the physiotherapist was alone with the patient in her home and the patient was suffering from a traumatic brain injury; and/or
- He failed to offer to discuss less invasive alternative treatment options to the massage.
Two days before the hearing the physiotherapist filed a Memorandum which included that while he still denied the charge he did not have the financial means to defend the matter further and he would not be appearing. He asked the Tribunal, when making its decision, took into account the six briefs of evidence he had earlier filed with the Tribunal.
The hearing proceeded without the physiotherapist or his witnesses.
The Tribunal found all the sub particulars established except for the sub particular relating to sexualised conversation. The Tribunal was satisfied that the charge was made out and amounted to malpractice and negligence and conduct that brings discredit to the profession.
The Tribunal cancelled the physiotherapist’s registration, censured him and imposed conditions that he must satisfy before applying for re-registration. The Tribunal ordered the physiotherapist to pay $26,000 to the Director of Proceedings and $13,334 to the Tribunal towards the costs of and incidental to the hearing.
Permanent suppression of the physiotherapist’s name was declined.
The Tribunal directed publication of the decision and a summary.