The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) alleged that the practitioner the subject of these disciplinary proceedings was guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct in relation to the manner of his prescribing of benzodiazepines to 19 patients, for breaching conditions that had been placed on his registration not to prescribe schedule 4 or schedule 8 drugs and as a result of the appropriateness of his medical records in 27 instances. The HCCC also alleged that the practitioner’s treatment of his family constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
The practitioner admitted the factual allegations in the above grounds but denied that treatment of his family constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct. The practitioner admitted that the Complaints relating to prescribing benzodiazepines, breaching conditions of registration not to prescribe schedule 4 or schedule 8 drugs and the appropriateness of his medical records in 27 instances, as constituting unsatisfactory professional conduct.
In relation to the manner of prescribing the benzodiazepines, the Tribunal concluded that it amounted to very serious unsatisfactory professional conduct in that the practitioner prescribed addictive medications without proper care and investigation as to whether they were suitable and needed. The Tribunal noted that a contravention of a condition on a practitioner’s registration is unsatisfactory professional conduct pursuant to the National Law. Further, the practitioner’s failure to comply with the relevant regulations in force at the time so far as his medical records were concerned, also amounted to unsatisfactory professional conduct pursuant to the National Law. The Tribunal noted that there was a failure to comply with the regulations in every one of the 27 patient records and that the non-compliance was extensive. In essence the breach of conditions and failure to comply with regulations in relation to note taking are strict liability offences. That is, if it is found that there has been a breach of conditions or failure to comply with the regulations in relation to note taking then there is no defence available to the practitioner and a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct will follow.
In terms of treating his family, the Tribunal was not satisfied that it amounted to unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct as whilst it was regarded to be conduct below a standard that could be reasonably expected, it was not significantly below that standard such that it would meet the definition of unsatisfactory professional conduct pursuant to the National Law, which is the lesser charge of the two.
Whilst the Tribunal is proposing an order that the practitioner has engaged in professional misconduct, opening the door for cancellation of the practitioner’s registration, it has flagged its view that cancellation of the practitioner’s registration is not appropriate. The Tribunal has sought the parties submission on the proposed orders which if made, would place various conditions on the practitioner’s registration including supervision, a continued prohibition in prescribing schedule 4 and 8 drugs and random review of medical records. Further, the Tribunal proposes an order that breach of the conditions relating to a number of the specified conditions imposed would automatically result in cancellation of his registration.
Once a final decision has been made in relation to the orders made by the Tribunal we will post an updated blog.
Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver