12 Apr 2019
A Victorian woman has been convicted in a New South Wales Court for charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
A New South Wales Local Court convicted dental assistant, Ms Sara Matthews, of offences under the National Law1 and fined her a total of $4,000 after pleading guilty to three charges filed by the AHPRA. She was also ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs for the amount of $3,025.
Ms Matthews pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully claiming to be authorised or qualified to practise in a health profession; in this case, dentistry; and two counts of performing restricted dental acts.
Ms Matthews has never held registration as a registered health practitioner or student under the National Law with any National Board, including the Dental Board of Australia (the Board).
On 30 July 2018, AHPRA filed charges against Ms Matthews alleging that when employed as a dental assistant at the Good Teeth Dental Clinic in Kiama, NSW, she performed restricted dental acts, including fitting and/or adjusting artificial teeth and braces for two patients. Ms Matthews was also charged with knowingly or recklessly using the description ‘dental assistant’ to indicate that she was authorised or qualified to practise the dental profession.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the conviction as another example of regulation working to protect the public.
‘Our primary purpose at AHPRA is to protect the public from harm. Someone who claims to be a registered practitioner when they are notrepresents a real risk as they are neither qualified to assess a patient’s suitability for the treatment nor are they able to intervene should an emergency arise. We take reports of this kind of offending very seriously and, where appropriate, will prosecute in the criminal courts.’
Dental Board of Australia Chair Murray Thomas said: ‘Being a dental assistant does not mean you can perform procedures on patients that should be performed by a registered dental practitioner. Doing so is dangerous and reckless. When this does happen, it is patients who feel duped and betrayed. My advice to the public is to check using the online register of practitioners. There you will find the name of every registered dental practitioner in Australia. It is better to be safe and check that your practitioner is listed. A practitioner who is registered has met the Board’s requirements for registration and they have experience and qualifications to provide patients with care.’
In sentencing, Magistrate Still commented that the conduct was a breach of trust of the patients and that public safety and public confidence in our health system is undermined when individuals who are not registered practitioners hold themselves out as capable of and administer the services of registered health practitioners.
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered with a national health profession board can check the register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.
1 Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).