08 March 2017

Medical Identity Crime

The ABC reports that Shyam Acharya, whose current whereabouts are unknown, 'is facing a $30,000 fine after allegedly masquerading as a doctor at New South Wales hospitals for more than a decade'. NSW Health has defended the Department's recruitment practices.

Acharya  is accused of stealing an Indian doctor's identity while in India, later moving to Australia where he posed as a medical practitioner and became a citizen. He allegedly used fraudulent documents to gain registration with the Medical Council of New South Wales in 2003, working at several hospitals under the name Sarang Chitale until 2014.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency has laid charges for a breach of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, with a maximum penalty of $30,000. Not a major deterrent and not providing for imprisonment. The impersonation is a ground for cancellation of Acharya's citizenship, although medical identity incidents noted elsewhere in this blog and in my doctoral dissertation might lead us to suspect the offender will reappear in another jurisdiction as a medical practitioner.

NSW Health executive Karen Crawshaw said no complaints were received by the Medical Council of NSW or the Health Care Complaints Commission.
"The root cause of this was false identity to get into the country in the first place.
The documentation that got him registered was in fact legitimate documentation of a doctor.
We now require written references and contact directly referees of doctors seeking employment.
The ABC reports that
Crawshaw had defended the department's recruitment practices and said the blame does not rest with the state. 
Health Minister Hazzard said the situation was shocking - no surprises there - and that he would raise it at a national level.
It is quite disturbing that a foreign national could get through our border protection with a false passport and ID based on an Indian citizen who had trained as a doctor.
I will raise it at this month's COAG Health Minister's meeting to see whether the checks and balances are in place at a national level so that this can't occur again.
In November last year AHPRA that on behalf of the Psychology Board of Australia it successfully prosecuted social worker Sermin Baycan for claiming to be a psychologist.
Ms Baycan pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after AHPRA brought charges against her for using the title ‘psychologist’ and holding out as being a registered health practitioner under sections 113 and 116 of the National Law.
Ms Baycan has never held registration as a psychologist, however, it was alleged that she purported to use the title ‘psychologist’ at two medical clinics in Victoria between May 2015 and June 2015 by accepting referrals under mental health plans.
Ms Baycan pleaded guilty to 14 charges and was ordered to pay a fine of $12,000 and costs of $20,200 to AHPRA, with no conviction recorded.
Psychology Board of Australia Chair, Professor Brin Grenyer welcomed the Court’s decision.
‘This judgement is a case in point. It is unacceptable for anyone who does not hold registration as a psychologist to claim to be a psychologist and worse still see patients when they are not qualified to do so. If you are not an appropriately qualified psychologist and registered with the Board, then you cannot present yourself to be a psychologist. No matter what other qualifications you hold, there is no excuse.’
AHPRA noted that
The National Law protects the public by making sure anyone who uses the title ‘psychologist’ is registered, qualified and trained to do so.
‘When the public access psychological services they are often vulnerable and rely on their registered practitioner to provide them with the best care possible. The actions of Ms Baycan were not only against the law, but did an injustice to the patients, who believed they were seeing a qualified psychologist,’ said Prof. Grenyer. ...
All registered health practitioners appear on the online Register of Practitioners, which is a searchable list that is accessible on the AHPRA website. If a person does not appear on the register, they are not registered to practise in a regulated health profession in Australia. Title protection is an important way the National Law helps to protect the public. Only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles. Psychologists and other practitioners from other regulated health professions have to register annually with their National Board and declare that they meet current national standards.