On 26 January 2021, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) considered a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Mr John Tom Appel, registered physiotherapist of Hamilton (the Physiotherapist).
The charge was laid under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act). It was alleged that between 2014 and 2017, the Physiotherapist failed on approximately 400 occasions to create a clinical record of the physiotherapy treatment he provided to patients.
The conduct alleged above either separately or cumulatively amounted to professional misconduct pursuant to section 100(1)(a) and/or 100(1)(b) of the Act, in that it amounted to malpractice or negligence and/or had brought or was likely to bring discredit to the profession.
The Physiotherapist has been a registered physiotherapist since December 2002.
On 5 April 2018, ACC requested that Actus (the Physiotherapist’s former employer) provide copies of Incomplete Exam Reports for the Physiotherapist from 27 November 2014 to 31 January 2018. On 6 April 2018, ACC was provided with the Incomplete Exams Reports as requested.
On 5 September 2018, Actus received an email from ACC advising that it had identified several instances where treatment notes were either incomplete or missing, and that ACC required repayment of these treatment costs because it could not confirm that the treatments met ACC’s funding criteria.
Actus was liable to repay ACC for the treatments invoiced by the Physiotherapist, which amounted to $6,541.77.
The hearing proceeded on an agreed summary of facts. The Physiotherapist accepted the charge. He acknowledged that his conduct amounted to malpractice or negligence under the HPCA Act and that he had brought or was likely to bring discredit to the profession.
The Tribunal found that the charge was established. The Tribunal was satisfied that the Physiotherapist failed to create a clinical record on approximately 400 occasions. These were in breach of the applicable professional standards and ACC’s contractual requirements with treatment providers.
The Tribunal stated that it is a fundamental obligation of physiotherapists to document clinical examinations to ensure patient safety and continuity of care.
The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Appel’s failures to comply with the fundamental obligation to make a record of patient appointments constituted negligence and malpractice in his scope of practice and was likely to have brought discredit to the physiotherapy profession.
- Censured the Physiotherapist
- Imposed conditions upon the Physiotherapist that he must:
- undertake supervision for 24 months with a focus on clinical record-keeping standards
- complete a course with a focus on record-keeping
- Fined the Physiotherapist $5,000.00
- Ordered that the Physiotherapist pay 40% of the costs, amounting to $33,600.00.
The Tribunal ordered permanent suppression of the names and identifying details of all patients in the documentation before the Tribunal.
The Tribunal directed publication and a summary on the Tribunal website. The Tribunal also ordered a summary or direction to the decision to be published in the Physiotherapy Board’s professional publication to its members.