20 Nov 2018
A former medical practitioner in Victoria has been successfully prosecuted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and fined $16,500 for claiming a member of his staff was a registered health practitioner when they were not.
Mr Roger Bernard, a former general medical practitioner, pleaded guilty and was convicted in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria at Sunshine (the court) of seven charges of recklessly claiming that Ms Phoebe Pacheco was a registered health practitioner, when she was not.
Mr Bernard also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of recklessly using a title in circumstances which indicated that Ms Pacheco was registered as a medical practitioner. Ms Pacheco was not and never has been registered with the Medical Board of Australia.
The charges were brought by AHPRA who, as part of its investigation, found Ms Pacheco saw patients at a medical clinic run by Mr Bernard in Werribee between 16 June and 3 November 2016. Patients at the clinic included those seeking medical treatment, cosmetic treatment and/or a mix of both medical and cosmetic consultations.
When he was registered as a medical practitioner, Mr Bernard’s registration was subject to conditions. The offending by Mr Bernard and Ms Pacheco came to light when AHPRA’s compliance officers were monitoring Mr Bernard’s compliance with those conditions.
Ms Pacheco pleaded guilty in relation to her offending in February 2018 and was fined $7,500 and ordered to pay costs of $20,000. A conviction was not recorded by the court.
The National Law establishes a number of offences for companies or individuals who represent themselves, or others to be registered health practitioners, without being registered to practise in a health profession or recognised specialty.
At sentencing, Mr Bernard was ordered to pay costs to AHPRA of $27,617 in addition to the $16,500 fine.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher credited the diligent work of the compliance officers, monitoring Mr Bernard.
‘Our staff work hard every day to help protect the public. In this case our compliance staff acted quickly so we could investigate. This also meant we could quickly get the message out to patients. At the time we worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, publishing information to alert patients who had attended the Werribee clinic.’
Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, said this case shows that the National Scheme1 is protecting patients.
‘Patients trust their doctors and have a right to expect safe care from qualified practitioners. The Board will take action when anyone abuses that trust.'
Make sure you are seeing a registered health practitioner.
It is a serious matter if anyone who is not a registered health practitioner claims to be a registered health practitioner or uses titles that are protected under the National Law (e.g. medical practitioner). Both are offences and may be prosecuted by AHPRA.
The National Law protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles. The law allows for penalties to be issued by the court for using protected titles or holding out as a registered practitioner when not entitled to. The maximum penalty which a court may impose per charge is $30,000 (in the case of an individual) or $60,000 (in the case of a body corporate).
It is important that you ensure that the practitioner you are seeing is appropriately registered. Anyone receiving treatment from a person who is claiming to be registered when they are not is a cause for concern.
Remember to check the Register of practitioners or you can raise a concern by calling 1300 419 495.
1 National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme)