Statement from the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA

02 Aug 2016

AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia have a clear focus on public and patient safety.

In response to serious allegations that were made about Dr Andrew Churchyard in May 2015, AHPRA worked closely with the Victorian Board of the Medical Board of Australia to impose restrictions on the registration of this doctor. Dr Churchyard was legally bound to comply with these restrictions which were put in place as an immediate measure while the matter was further investigated.

The restrictions required Dr Churchyard not to consult with any male patient without a chaperone being present for the entire consultation and for him to practise in accordance with the Medical Board of Australia’s Chaperone guidelines. Relevant employers were notified of the restrictions and they were also published on the public register of practitioners, visible to anyone who looked him up on the register. The restrictions also required signage indicating the restriction to be visible in any place of practice. (The full restrictions, as they appeared on the public register, are included below.)

Chaperoning restrictions impose a set of rigorous requirements and if a practitioner does not meet these conditions the Board could take further action, including suspension from practice. The chaperoning restrictions are published in full, publicly, on the online Register of practitioners. Everyone with a chaperoning condition must display a sign in the waiting room. AHPRA actively monitors these restrictions, including by unannounced site visits. A log of patients and chaperones must be kept and if this data doesn’t match up with other, independent sources of information, the Board can and will take swift action.

On 4 February 2016, Dr Churchyard gave the Board a binding undertaking to not practise. This was published on the public register of practitioners. On 11 February 2016 the Board suspended Dr Churchyard’s registration. Suspension is the most serious action the Board can take if there is a concern about immediate risk to the public. The suspension was published on the public register of practitioners.

We work closely with police services across Australia. Where allegations are made about possible criminal behaviour, we urge victims to go to the police directly. This is what we did in relation to these allegations made about Dr Churchyard.

The Medical Board of Australia Code of Conduct requires all doctors to make the care of their patients their primary concern. All registered practitioners must respect professional boundaries and not take advantage of the trust their patients place in them.

Employers play an important part in keeping the public safe by ensuring that registered health practitioners meet required standards and comply with any restrictions placed on their registration. We routinely inform employers if restrictions are placed on the registration of a health practitioner. This was the case with Dr Churchyard.

Employers have mandatory reporting obligations, and can make a voluntary notification (complaint) when they believe there is a risk to patients.

If you or someone you know is concerned about the care being provided by a registered health practitioner, please let us know. As a patient it’s important that you understand what treatments you are getting and why. If you’re not sure, seek a second opinion.

We will further follow up with the notifiers and families involved in relation to any concerns they have about how we have responded.

As the Coroner may be investigating Dr Churchyard’s death, we can’t comment publicly in detail about this matter or his disciplinary history with the Medical Board of Australia. We will cooperate fully with the Coroner’s investigation.

Timeline

  • On 28 May 2015, the Medical Board of Australia imposed restrictions on Dr Churchyard’s registration. Dr Churchyard was legally bound to comply with these restrictions on his practice. This is the wording that was published on the register on this date:

    Dr Andrew Churchyard [MED0000938972] provides the following undertaking to the Medical Board of Australia (the Board):
  1. Dr Churchyard will not consult with any male patient without a chaperone being present for the entire consultation, and is to practise in accordance with the Chaperone Guidelines of the Medical Board of Australia (the Board). Specifically:
    1. There must be a note in the medical record of every patient for whom a chaperone is necessary that confirms that the chaperone was present for the entire consultation.
    2. The chaperone should:
      1. be a suitably experienced person, preferably a registered health practitioner such as a registered nurse or midwife
      2. be aware of the Board’s codes, guidelines and policies in relation to professional boundaries and sexual misconduct
      3. know of the nature of the allegations made about the doctor
      4. be fully briefed by the doctor about the Board’s expectations of the chaperone
      5. know who to speak with and report to if they have concerns about the doctor’s conduct
      6. know what to do if they personally feel vulnerable, intimidated or threatened while acting as a chaperone
      7. be discouraged from remaining in the consulting room with the doctor when the doctor is not consulting a patient
      8. be approved in advance by the Board
    3. The chaperone must sign a log after every consultation confirming that they were present during the entire consultation. The log must be forwarded to the Board at the end of every month. The chaperone may be a friend or relative nominated by the patient. In such circumstances the patient-nominated chaperone must sign a separate log.
    4. The practice must ensure that there is a sign in the practice waiting room clearly visible to all patients arriving at the practice setting out the requirement that a chaperone will be present in certain circumstances.
    5. Reception staff must be aware that a chaperone will be present as per the Board’s requirements and inform patients at the time of booking that a chaperone will be present during the consultation. If a patient does not wish to have a chaperone present or demonstrates any reluctance, an appointment with an alternative doctor should be offered.
    6. Dr Churchyard is to ensure that the Practice Manager and Director of Medical Services and any other persons defined by the Board are aware of this undertaking on his registration by providing them with a copy of this undertaking.
    7. Dr Churchyard authorises representatives of the Board/AHPRA, for the purpose of monitoring compliance with the chaperone restriction, to enter his place(s) of practice at random times to inspect the signage, and/or inspect his patient records, and/or meet with chaperones and otherwise communicate with staff at Dr Churchyard’s place(s) of work.
    8. Dr Churchyard authorises AHPRA to obtain information relating to his billing practices from Medicare Australia.
    9. Dr Churchyard is responsible for any costs associated with the chaperone and reporting to the Board.
  • Relevant employers were notified of the restrictions.
  • As with all restrictions, AHPRA put in place a set of monitoring arrangements.
  • On 4 February 2016, Dr Churchyard gave the Board a binding undertaking to not practise. This was published on the public register of practitioners.
  • On 11 February 2016 the Medical Board of Australia suspended Dr Churchyard’s registration. This was published on the public register of practitioners

For more information

  • For media enquiries: (03) 8708 9200
  • Lodge an online enquiry form
  • For registration enquiries: 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 3 9275 9009 (overseas callers)
 
 
Page reviewed 2/08/2016