Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Former Bacchus Marsh doctor reprimanded

Former Bacchus Marsh doctor reprimanded

28 Oct 2022

A tribunal has found a junior doctor failed in her performance during a cluster of stillbirths and newborn deaths at the hospital.

Trigger warning: Some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress and are a registered medical practitioner or medical student, please visit the drs4drs website for support in your state or territory. Any readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.

The Victorian and Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) found 14 allegations were proven against Dr Basu, arising from her performance working as a junior doctor under the supervision of Director of Obstetrics Dr Surinder Parhar between 2008 and 2011. 

The Medical Board of Australia alleged Dr Basu failed to provide clinically appropriate obstetric care and/or failed to keep proper clinical records of the care provided in relation to seven patients. Four of those patients experienced adverse outcomes including stillborn babies.  

During the tribunal hearing, Dr Basu admitted allegations including that she:  

  • Failed to make an appropriately comprehensive, clear, and accurate medical record of the obstetric management of five patients 
  • Did not provide clinically appropriate obstetric care to four patients.  
  • Failed to provide clinically appropriate obstetric care to one patient. 

The tribunal found the allegations amounted to three instances of professional misconduct, in line with submissions from both parties, and ordered that Dr Basu be reprimanded.  

The fact Dr Basu worked as a junior doctor under inadequate supervision from Dr Parhar, who had the ultimate authority to make critical decisions, was considered as a mitigating factor by the tribunal when deciding not to impose a harsher penalty. 

While a short period of suspension was considered by the Tribunal, Dr Basu’s acknowledgement that her skills were deficient while working at the hospital, and the advanced training in Obstetrics she had undertaken since leaving, convinced the tribunal that a more serious determination was not required. 

‘It was also relevant to our decision that it is now 10 years since the last of the conduct the subject of this case, and there have been no further disciplinary complaints. To the contrary, the evidence is that Dr Basu is now a safe and competent medical practitioner, and, as a GP Supervisor, trusted to supervise and train young GP trainees,’ the tribunal found. 

Background 

In February 2016, Ahpra and the National Boards launched investigations in relation to 101 matters about the care provided by individual practitioners at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital during the period of October 2011 to February 2013. This followed a cluster of potentially preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital (operated by Djerriwarrh Health Service). 

Forty three registered health practitioners were the subject of concerns in the 101 matters reported (some practitioners were the subject of multiple notifications). All investigations have finalised, with one practitioner awaiting an outcome with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

For the 43 registered health practitioners reported, almost half (21 practitioners) had matters which were able to be closed without the need for regulatory action. This includes practitioners who surrendered their registration or who had already undertaken steps towards remediation, which a National Board considers sufficient to manage any ongoing risk to the public. For example, when a practitioner has completed education or training that addresses any gaps identified in their skills or knowledge. 

For those practitioners where further action was taken: 

  • six practitioners were cautioned 
  • six practitioners had conditions imposed on their registration (including those who were cautioned and had conditions imposed), and 
  • ten practitioners were referred to a panel hearing or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

Further information about the possible outcomes of a notification can be found on the Ahpra website

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Page reviewed 28/10/2022