Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal decisions

Media releases

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (The Tribunal) has asked us to publish a summary of its recent decisions. You can access the full decision on their website at the links provided.


Accessing the list of decisions

Use the link below to access the list of decisions. You can access the full decision on their website at the link provided at the end of each summary. Alternatively, you can go directly to the Tribunal's website at:

https://www.hpdt.org.nz/

You can also find out more about the Tribunal in the article The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal at a glance that was published in our December 2019 newsletter.

Dr Rakesh Kumar Chawdhry - Med 19/452P

Charge

At a hearing held in Wellington on 09 September 2019 the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary
Tribunal (the Tribunal) considered a charge laid by the Professional Conduct Committee
appointed by the Medical Council of New Zealand against Doctor Rakesh Chawdhry (the
Doctor) of Christchurch.

The charge alleged that the Doctor’s conduct reflected adversely on his fitness to practise.
The charge showed that the Doctor had been convicted in the District Court in Christchurch
of 13 counts of indecent assault and one count of sexual violation by unlawful sexual
connection. All the victims were the Doctor’s patients.

Following a Judge alone trial the Doctor was found guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to
4 years 4 months imprisonment and ordered to make emotional harm payments of $22,000 to
10 of the complainants.

Background

The hearing proceeded on the basis of an agreed summary of facts. Neither the Doctor nor
his counsel attended the hearing, however they did make written submissions to the Tribunal.

Finding

The Tribunal found that the charge was made out and the Doctor’s conduct undoubtedly
reflected on his fitness to practise. The Tribunal noted that the offences were gross breaches
of trust and were repeated over a sustained period of time. The Tribunal agreed that
disciplinary sanction should follow.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured the Doctor and cancelled his registration. A condition was also
imposed on the Doctor to be satisfied before applying for re-registration should the Doctor
choose to do so. The Tribunal ordered the Doctor to pay a total contribution of 30% towards
the costs of the Tribunal and the PCC. This amounted to $10,556.33.

The full decision can be found on the website at the following link:

https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med19/452P

 

Dr Mitchell Feller - Med 19/442P

Charge

At a hearing held in Wellington on 22 – 23 July 2019 the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary
Tribunal considered a charge laid by the Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the
Medical Council of New Zealand against Doctor Mitchell Feller (the Doctor) formerly of
Hawera.

The charge alleged that the Doctor developed and/or conducted a clinical study and/or
clinical trial undertaken in circumstances where he had failed to seek or obtain the necessary
approvals and failed to adequately follow or comply with relevant ethical guidelines for
clinical research studies.

The Doctor was charged with supplying or assisting to supply or encourage the use of his
preparation named Te Kiri Gold (TKG), by his patients. Failing to obtain his patient’s
informed consent and failing to disclose his financial interest in the product. He also used a
patient group which included vulnerable or terminally ill patients.

Background

The charge was heard by way of formal proof as the practitioner did not attend the hearing or
participate in the hearing process in any way.

Findings

The Tribunal found that the charge was made out in all its particulars as misconduct,
malpractice and negligence and the conduct brings discredit to the profession. Vulnerable
patients were put at risk, they were misled and their consent was not properly informed. The
Tribunal agreed that disciplinary sanction should follow.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured the Doctor and cancelled his registration in NZ. The Doctor was
ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 and pay a total contribution of $56,100 towards the costs of
the Tribunal and the PCC. The tribunal also requested a copy of its decision be sent to the
appropriate authorities in South Carolina and the Federation of State Medical Boards in the
USA.

The full decision can be found on the website at the following link:

https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med19/442P

 

Dr Deane Diesel Drew - Med19/441P

Charge

On 25June and 26 June 2019, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) considered a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee against Dr Deane Diesel Drew, medical practitioner of Wellington (the Doctor)

The charge alleged the Doctor was guilty of professional misconduct in relation to four women patients with whom he had an inappropriate sexual relationship. The women were patients of his at the time of commencing the relationship.  All of these patients were vulnerable through their mental health issues. The charge further alleged the Doctor prescribed drugs of dependence and psychotropic medications to three of these patients contrary to accepted professional standards. 

The conduct was alleged to have occurred over a lengthy period of time from approximately 1991 until October 2016 when the allegations came to a head. 

Background

The hearing proceeded on the basis of an agreed summary of facts. The Doctor admitted each of the particulars and underlying facts to the charge.

Finding

The Tribunal found all the particulars of the charge were established and the charge of professional misconduct was made out.

The Tribunal considered the charge against the Doctor involved prolonged breaches of trust against highly vulnerable patients.  His conduct was found to constitute malpractice and/or negligence and has brought or was likely to bring discredit to his profession.

Penalty

The Tribunal ordered that the Doctor’s registration be cancelled and conditions were imposed that he needed to meet before he could apply for re-registration.  The Tribunal also recommended to the Medical Council, three further conditions that should be placed on his practice if the Doctor was re-registered in the future.

The Doctor was censured, fined $3000.00, and ordered to pay 35% of the total costs ($28,966.27).

The full decision of the Tribunal can be found here .

Dr A - Med 18/431P

Charge

On 29 May 2019, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by a Professional Conduct Committee against Dr A, a registered medical practitioner  (the Doctor).

The charge alleged the Doctor breached her ethical obligations when she prescribed prescription medicines and controlled drugs including the drugs tramadol hydrochloride, zopiclone, codeine phosphate, citalopram hydrobromide, lorazepam, mirtazapine, and triazolam for her own use.  She prescribed these drugs in her own name and in the name of family members knowing that she was the intended recipient of the medication.

It was also alleged that she consumed the drugs and mislead or attempted to mislead her employer and the Medical Council by advising them she had not picked up a prescription dispensed to her. In addition she misled or attempted to mislead a pharmacist by incorrectly leading him to believe the drugs prescribed by her were for patients rather than for her own use.

The alleged misconduct occurred over the period of 8 May 2011 to 19 May 2017.

Background

The Doctor signed  an Agreed Statement of Facts in which she admitted the truth and accuracy of most of the Charge. She denied the allegations which related to misleading or attempting to mislead the pharmacist.

The Doctor accepted that her conduct amounted to professional misconduct.

Finding

The Tribunal found all the particulars established except for the particular which related to the allegation about the Doctor misleading or attempting to mislead the pharmacist.

The Tribunal found all the particulars established, and severally and cumulatively, they amounted to  professional misconduct.

Penalty

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the Doctor be censured;
  • the Doctor pay a fine of $5,000;
  • five conditions be placed on her practising certificate which will apply for three years from when the Doctor resumes or continues practice; and
  • the Doctor pay costs of $30,000 which was approximately 35% of the total costs.

The Tribunal recommended to the Health Committee of the Medical Council that it obtain dispensing information from the Ministry of Health regularly to monitor the Doctor’s compliance with the Medical Council statement on Good Prescribing Practice and other relevant Codes.

The full decision relating to the case can be found on the Tribunal website at:

https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med18/431P

Dr S - Med 18/417P

Charge

On 26 October 2018 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Dr S, medical practitioner (the Doctor).

The charge contained four particulars. The first three particulars alleged that the Doctor prescribed medications for herself or in the names of family members for those family members or for herself. The PCC alleged that each of these particulars either separately or cumulatively amounted to professional misconduct,

The fourth particular alleged that the Doctor was convicted on a charge of driving with excess alcohol and a further charge of failing to stop when required to do so by a law enforcement officer and that this conduct reflected adversely on the practitioner’s fitness to practise.

The hearing proceeded on the basis of an Agreed Summary of Facts. 

Finding

The Tribunal found the facts established and that the charges were made out except for the particular of the conviction charge relating to failing to stop.  This particular did not qualify for consideration under section 100(2) of the HPCA Act as the maximum penalty for the conviction was below the requirement of imprisonment of a term of three months or longer.

The charge was serious.  Prescribing any drugs to family members, particularly drugs of dependence, is of concern because of the lack of objectivity on the part of the medical practitioner which in turn could lead to serious consequences for the family member.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured the Doctor and fined her $5,000.  Conditions were imposed for a period of three years.  The Tribunal also recommended the Medical Council’s Health Committee carry out a comprehensive assessment of the Doctor’s health needs and a comprehensive review of the Doctor’s current health management programme.

Costs of $17,000 were awarded against the Doctor and an order of permanent name suppression of the name of the Doctor and any identifying features including her health issues was made. 

The Tribunal exempted from the name suppression order publication by the Medical Council referring to the Tribunal decision on the Doctor’s formal record and the Doctor herself from informing any prospective employer of the Tribunal’s decision. The Medical Council was also able to refer to the decision when responding to any legitimate enquiry by or on behalf of a party considering employing the Doctor.

The Tribunal further directed publication of its decision and a summary. The full decision can be found on the website at the following link:

https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med18/417P

Dr O – Med 16/375P

Charge

At a hearing held on 15 – 17 May 2017 the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Dr O,
(the Doctor) of Auckland.

The charge alleged that the Doctor used incorrect laser settings while treating his patient; recorded the incorrect settings in the patient notes; retrospectively altered the laser settings recorded in the clinical records and falsely advised or mislead the DHB, the Medical Council and the PCC of the laser settings. While suspended from his employment with the DHB, the Doctor breached conditions of his suspension by entering the DHB premises. It is further alleged that the Doctor misled or attempted to mislead the Chief Medical Officer of the DHB in the change of his supervisor.

The charges were defended by the Doctor.

Findings

The Tribunal found that by a “fairly fine margin” particular 1 of the charge was not established. Particular 2 and 3 were both not established by the PCC.

The Tribunal noted that this whole matter had its genesis in concerns with the DHB about the Doctor’s performance and competence and the Tribunal was is in no position to reach views about this. The Tribunal went on to say that this was not the appropriate forum for addressing such matters.

Dr Stephen JOHNS – Med 15/318D

Charge

On 07 – 11 March 2016 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by the Director of Proceedings (DP) against Dr Stephen Johns, medical practitioner of Auckland (the doctor).

The charge alleged that Dr Johns failed to respond appropriately to an abnormal and progressively pathological foetal cardiotocograph indicating severe foetal compromise and failed to communicate with the patient and/or the patient’s husband.

Dr Johns denied the charge of professional misconduct but accepted that the failed to respond in a clinically appropriate manner as the situation unfolded and he failed to communicate effectively with the patient and her husband. The hearing proceeded by way of a defended hearing.

Finding

The Tribunal was satisfied that both charges were made out and professional misconduct had been established in this case that warranted disciplinary sanction.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured Dr Johns; imposed a fine of $7,000 and imposed conditions on his practice for a period of 3 years. Dr Jones was ordered to pay 30% of the total costs, as a contribution to costs of the Tribunal and PCC.

Dr Johns appealed the Tribunal’s findings that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct. The DP cross appealed against the doctor's permanent name suppression.

The High Court dismissed Dr John's appeal and allowed the appeal on name suppression.

The full decision of the Tribunal can found at https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med15/318D

Dr Hirron FERNANDO – Med 16/352P

Charge

On 19 September 2016 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by the Professional Conduct Committee against Dr Hirron Fernando, registered medical practitioner formerly of Hawkes Bay (the Doctor).

The charge alleged that the Doctor, registered in New Zealand but practising overseas, contacted New Zealand district health boards requesting health information and/or medical records for patients he falsely claimed he was treating in the United Kingdom. The Doctor then went on to use the information in a court in the United Kingdom for his own private purpose, without the consent of the patients.

The Doctor did not appear at the hearing, nor was he represented. The hearing proceeded on a formal proof basis.

Finding

The Tribunal was satisfied that the charges were made out as professional misconduct and were sufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary sanction.

The Tribunal noted that an unusual feature of this case was that during the period of time in which the Doctor conducted himself in this way, although a New Zealand registered doctor, he did not hold a current practising certificate and was living and working abroad.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured the Doctor and cancelled his registration. The Tribunal ordered costs of $30,428.77 towards the Tribunal’s costs and $26,480.40 towards the PCC’s costs.

The Doctor appealed the decision of the Tribunal to the High Court on the grounds the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to make the orders it made. The High Court dismissed the Doctor’s appeal.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be found at https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Med16/352P

Dr Martyn HOWELLS – Med 18/416P

Charge

On 17 July 2018 by video conference, the Tribunal considered a charge laid by the PCC against Dr Martyn Howells, medical practitioner of Dunedin.

The charge alleged that Dr Howells had between 2004 and 2010 altered the medical records of 12 patients resulting in a financial benefit of $3,929 to which his practice was not entitled.

Findings

The hearing proceeded on an agreed summary of facts basis. The Tribunal was satisfied that the charge was established and made out as misconduct. The Tribunal also noted that Dr Howells had repaid the $3,929 in December 2015.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured Dr Howells and imposed conditions on his practice for a period of 3 years. The Tribunal ordered him to pay a contribution of $20,000 towards the total costs of the PCC and $6,000 towards the costs of the Tribunal.

The Tribunal directed publication of its decision and a summary. The decision can be viewed on the Tribunal’s website here .

Dr H – Med17/378D

Charge

The Tribunal considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by the Director of Proceedings against Dr H, registered medical practitioner.

Particular 1 of the charge alleged that on four separate occasions when the patient who was over 50 years of age presented with dysphagia and or continuing weight loss, Dr H failed to refer the patient for an endoscopy and/or to a specialist. Particular 2 of the charge alleged that Dr H failed to communicate adequately with the patient to clarify his symptoms.

The medical practitioner accepted they had failed to properly refer the patient to a specialist or for an endoscopy. The medical practitioner believed they were blinkered by their initial diagnosis of gastritis. However, the medical practitioner accepted that by the third consultation, a referral for gastroscopy should have been done. There was no admission that this was professional misconduct, simply, that it was negligence at that point not to have made the referral.

Finding

The Tribunal found that Particular 1 of the charge was established as professional misconduct, warranting disciplinary sanction. It was satisfied that the failure to refer was negligent from the outset at the first consultation and remained so at each of the successive consultations.

The Tribunal found Particular 2 of the charge not established and that Dr H had not failed to communicate with the patient as charged.

Penalty

Dr H was censured, ordered to pay 30 percent of the costs of the Tribunal and the Director of Proceedings amounting to $21,636.

The Tribunal ordered permanent suppression of Dr H’s name and directed publication of its decision and a summary.

Dr H appealed the decision of the Tribunal to the High Court. The appeal was dismissed H v Director of Proceedings [2018] NZHC 2175

The full decision of the Tribunal can be found here .

Dr Joseph WILLIAMS – Med 16/371P

Charge

At a hearing held from 31 July to 10 August 2017, the Tribunal considered two charges laid by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Dr Joseph Williams, registered medical practitioner of Auckland. The Tribunal treated the two charges as one charge but with two categories.

Category 1 concerned prescribing a combination of a potent topical steroid and an antifungal cream in circumstances that amounted to professional misconduct in respect of 12 patients.

Category 2 concerned providing dietary advice in circumstances that departed from accepted medical practice or that resulted in actual harm to the patient.

Certain particulars of the charge also referred to issues concerning note-taking in the context of the prescribing of the medicines to the patient.

Findings

Category 1 of the charge was upheld. While Dr Williams may have used the mixture of the steroid and the antifungal cream with significant success, on the evidence before the Tribunal the use of the mixture for the individual cases was inappropriate and/or excessive.

The Tribunal was concerned that Dr Williams mixed the two medicines without himself having conducted any proper validated analysis of the consequences and without adequate formal research. A further major factor was that Dr Williams in many cases, prescribed the mixture in the face of concerns being expressed to him by other professionals whose views he should have respected and taken into account.

Category 2 of the Charge was also upheld. The dietary advice was inappropriate in the particular circumstances of the patient and brought harm to the patient.

The Tribunal also found Dr Williams’ note-taking to be inadequate.

Penalty

The Tribunal censured Dr Williams, fined him $10,000 and imposed conditions on his practice. The Tribunal ordered Dr Williams to pay a total contribution of $145,000 towards the costs of the Tribunal and the PCC.

The Tribunal directed publication of its decision and a summary.

Appeal

The Doctor appealed to the High Court against the Tribunal’s decision. The appeal was dismissed. Williams v PCC [2018] NZHC 2472.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be found here .

  

Also in this edition of Medical Council News