Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Unqualified medical intern at Bankstown hospital convicted

Unqualified medical intern at Bankstown hospital convicted

20 Jan 2022

A woman who worked as a medical intern at a Sydney hospital despite not being qualified or registered to practise was today convicted in the Local Court of NSW following charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). 

Key points
  • Unqualified person working as a medical intern who pleaded guilty to falsely claiming to be qualified to practise medicine has been sentenced.
  • Convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment to be served by Intensive Corrections Order (ICO) in the community and fined $10,000 by Local Court of NSW.
  • Charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

 

The Court sentenced Zhi Sin Lee to two years imprisonment to be served by Intensive Corrections Order (ICO) in the community and fined her $10,000. She was also ordered to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $3,400

Zhi Sin Lee is not qualified as a medical practitioner and is not registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, anywhere in Australia.

In 2020, Ms Lee was part-way through completing a Doctor of Medicine qualification at the University of New South Wales but failed a number of disciplines and was advised she would not be eligible to graduate.  Despite this, she accepted a position as a medical intern at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital for the 2021 intake of intern medical practitioners and worked 126 shifts between 18 January and 9 August 2021.  Her employment was immediately terminated when the hospital discovered that she was not registered.

Medical interns must hold an approved qualification in medicine and surgery after completing an accredited program of study and have provisional registration with the Medical Board of Australia, before they can undertake accredited intern training.

Ahpra charged Ms Lee with one count of falsely claiming to be qualified to practise in breach of section 116 of the National Law.

Ms Lee pleaded guilty to the charge on 18 November 2021 and was today sentenced.  

Magistrate Bartley commented it was a ‘strong prosecution case’ and that Ms Lee ‘put her own interests ahead of the risk to patients … and knew she was risking the welfare of her patients’, noting with concern that the offending took place in a public hospital in the middle of a pandemic with ‘repeated, calculated dishonesty.'  The Magistrate accepted that Ms Lee had demonstrated remorse and noted this was the key factor keeping her out of full-time imprisonment.

This is the first time a term of imprisonment has been imposed under the National Law.  In NSW, an ICO can be imposed where a court has sentenced an offender to imprisonment but decides that the sentence may be served by way of intensive correction in the community instead of in a prison.  Sentences of imprisonment, including ICOs, only became possible under the National Law from 1 July 2019 when amendments came into force which increased the maximum fines for fake practitioners and introduced the penalty of imprisonment of up to three years per offence.

Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said: ‘Ahpra and the Board protect the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably qualified and fit to practise can be registered.  We will not hold back prosecuting those who claim to be qualified to practice when they are not registered.’

Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Dr Anne Tonkin, also welcomed the outcome.

‘Jeopardising public safety and violating the public trust in medical practitioners will not be tolerated. This outcome should send a strong deterrent to anyone who thinks they can get away with practising medicine without being qualified and registered.’

For more information

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Page reviewed 20/01/2022