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.