07 March 2019

Dodgy Doctors

'Phantom practitioners: accreditation fraud, corruption and health professionals' by Bruce Baer Arnold and Wendy Bonython in (2019) 27(1) Australian Health Law Bulletin 14 comments
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) report on Eman Sharobeem and action against Raffaele Di Paolo, Vitomir Zepinic, Vincent Berg, Dusan Milosevic and Balaji Varatharaju, and raise ques- tions about misrepresentation by people who hold themselves out as health practitioners but are unregistered, and in some instances have used fake documentation to obfuscate their lack of training. 
The authors argue that
It is axiomatic that trust is a foundation of the Australian health system: trust in the competence and ethical behaviour of health professionals alongside trust in the efficacy of regulatory bodies such as the Austra- lian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), courts, tribunals and professional boards that identify and respond to misbehaviour. That trust is eroded by people who successfully hold themselves out — in essence make unsubstantiated claims — to be entitled to engage in professional practice. 
Those claims may have an entirely fictive basis, with for example an individual falsely claiming that they received training from an accredited institution, passed tests of competence and duly received certification by an educational institution and/or a professional body. Claims may instead involve an individual who did indeed receive the required training and pass the corresponding tests but subsequently was either deregistered and unable to lawfully engage in professional practice or whose practice was restricted, for example through a requirement that the professional not deal with patients unless closely supervised by a peer. 
A recent report by the NSW ICAC explores one instance of a “phantom” practitioner: a high-profile individual, in a position where trust was particularly important, who invented professional qualifications, gained financial and social benefit from that identity crime and resisted investigation.  The report highlights questions about corruption rather than merely appropriation of a status to which the supposed practitioner was not entitled. It offers a perspective on recent prosecutions of several fake general practitioners and specialists, alongside action by regulators.