Last year more than 2,000 complaints were received about medical practitioners. While this represents a very small proportion of practitioners in New South Wales, the complaints were primarily centred on themes such as clinical care, communication and medication issues. To outline the work of the Council, below are two case studies of doctors who were reported.
DR A: MANAGING COMPLEX AND URGENT COMPLAINTS TO PROTECT PUBLIC SAFETY
In 2017 three complaints were referred to the Medical Council by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) about Dr A, a 50-year-old solo general practitioner. The complaints had alleged Dr A had made an incision that was larger and deeper than necessary; that Dr A had not given an option for a specialist referral; had demonstrated poor use of anaesthesia and poor infection control. Dr A was alleged to have also responded inappropriately to obvious infections, which had resulted in hospital admissions.
Shortly after referral of the three complaints to the Council, the HCCC received a further complaint from a patient alleging Dr A was performing procedures beyond the expertise of the practitioner and in unsuitable conditions. The Council requested an urgent referral in order to consider the four complaints together. Due to serious concerns regarding Dr A's performance, the Council convened s150 proceedings to determine if urgent action was required to protect the health and safety of the public. Conditions were consequently imposed on Dr A's registration and the complaints were referred back to the HCCC for investigation.
Three subsequent complaints were received by the HCCC regarding Dr A performing procedures inappropriately on patients involving multiple co-morbidities without referral to a specialist and performing an inappropriate procedure leading to disfigurement. The Council, on the basis of these further similar complaints, convened further immediate action proceedings due to concerns about Dr A's continued risk to the public. Dr A's registration was suspended and the suspension remains in effect until the outcome of the investigation in relation to these complaints.
This case study illustrates how the Council manages complex complaints involving a medical practitioner to ensure the protection of the health and safety of the public.
DR S: SUPPORTING A PRACTITIONER THROUGH MONITORING
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) had imposed conditions on the registration of Dr S as a result of her inappropriate prescribing practices. These conditions restricted her access to schedule 8 and schedule 4 appendix D drugs, obliged her to move into a group practice and required her to be supervised and mentored for some periods.
Several years after participating in the Council's Monitoring Program, Dr S sought to have her conditions lifted. Dr S submitted that she had gained valuable insight into why her previous conduct had come to the attention of NCAT and had benefited from being actively mentored. Dr S was able to demonstrate to the Council that she had made positive changes to her practice, including recognising the benefits of participating in a group practice where she was able to develop her clinical leadership skills.
Her submission to resume full practice was supported by her Council approved mentor, whose reports to Council had documented how Dr S had developed and improved to the point where she could resume full practice. Her conditions were lifted.