News & Current Affairs
02 February 2015
by Leong Ng
Skeletons galore: some victims of health regulation dysfunction
With the opaque changes in Medicare reimbursement regulations being suddenly redacted, another co-payment plan looming for July and a furphy being exposed, Dr Leong Ng calls for a Royal Commission on behalf of Australian doctors who have suffered human rights abuses.
“We are living in exceptional times. One potential foe must be considered, the foe of complacency.”
Dame Marie Bashir, Former Governor, NSW
THE FOLLOWING are some real life past cases and their remarkably accurate relationship to a chilling hypothetical staged by the regulators themselves and publicly presented in a past medico-legal seminar.
Health skeletons galore
Recent developments in the Henry Keogh case in Adelaide are disturbing regarding the administration of justice. It is a repeat of what had been seen with Lindy Chamberlain (NT) and Gordon Wood. (NSW)
It appears that Australia is still not learning from her errors or charades.
For healthcare regulation, similar scenarios in NSW, Queensland and Victoria exist. They deserve to be reexamined with better quality evidence. Even those who have been exonerated deserve to have their accusers’ or prosecutors’ motives re-examined.
Similar views of concern have been expressed in the U.K. including a recent scientific study.
Australian healthcare management and regulation in crisis
This piece is a continuing “forensic” discovery process in the public Interest, addressing various governments’ continued well-intentioned and highly politicised desire “to protect the public” or “guide the profession”.
It corroborates with the assertions of 'AHPRA in Wonderland'.
Dr Peter Bevan, an Australian GP in Queensland who had been falsely accused of sexual misconduct boldly reports in the following YouTube clip that the current system openly admits that it does not have the capacity or authority to deal with false and frivolous complaints. But the law states otherwise.
This clearly articulated single case further gives insight into the serious disruption such complaints may cause as with other alleged malicious or erroneous persecutions.
Dr. Glenn Taylor (NSW), Dr. Helen Tsigounis (Vic, later Qld), Professor Thomas Kossmann (Vic), Professor Paddy Dewan (Vic), Dr. Yolande Lucire (NSW), Dr. Russ Broadbent, (Qld), Dr. Arthur Obi (Vic), Dr. Jayant Patel (Qld), Dr. Richard Emery, (2013 interim committee in Qld, managed by NSW), Ms. Jane Thompson (NSW), Dr. Bruce Coppa (NT), Dr. Charlie Teo and the author (Vic & NSW) are just several forming the tip of the iceberg.
The gross dysfunction of NSW Health as reflected in the Walker and Garling Inquiries appears to be too difficult to address — hence the ascending obscurity of the reports in the public domain nearly a decade on.
A Lower House Inquiry of 2010-2012 led to a Report, one of 5 unresponded-to parliamentary inquiries initiated by the 43rd Parliament of Australia — prophetically named, “Lost in the Labyrinth”.
However, there is no clear data on whether some of the above were related to false notification, prosecutions or persecutions. There is also no data on the silent majority of victims of the dysfunction and bullying.
All such persons would have been definite victims of psychological false imprisonment in one way or another — and we all need justice.
The NSW hypothetical
A chilling document from a NSW Medico-Legal Society Symposium from September 2013 entitled ‘Mandatory Reporting — A Hypothetical’ explores a hypothetical. The sequence of events in these scenarios appears to closely corroborate with the multiple real life scenarios, published and unpublished, from the recent past.
Is this a coincidence or is this the pattern of behaviour already programmed working algorithm in the minds of investigators and decision-making bureaucrats?
False flag, vexatious complainants and sham reviewers know that notifications that can be neither proven nor disproven stand the highest chance of not being dismissed.
These are issues related to communication (including innovative ideas), mental health and sexual impropriety and also, to “under the influence” whether by non-prescription substances or alcohol.
It is unknown whether some notifications are related to veiled attempts at financial or other blackmail, or cartel-like abuse and anti-competitive conduct.
All are unlawful.
Sadly, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Medical Council of NSW and its delegates will often treat such notifications with absolute reliance whilst falsely assuming that the registrant is guilty till proven otherwise.
This issue needs to be re-examined in the context of the law.
Sections 52, 55 and Part 11 of the Queensland Health Ombudsman Act 2013 have contemplative provisions for these to be dealt with. Optional arrangements for conciliation and remediation exist. The adversarial style legalistic attacks which include those on innocent bystander health practitioners in its quest to “protect the public” get second place.
But these are not enough and need to be expanded and debated.
Unlike the police-state ramifications and policies of other similar legislation, this Act demonstrates some degree of a duty of care to both the public and the registrant. Perhaps the new Queensland Government will examine this transparently and truthfully.
The forgotten or “too hard basket”
Obscured, but not forgotten, are those colleagues who are deceased or have departed the health profession – either by stress or suicide – and those who have walked away. Currently under probe in the U.K. is self-harm and suicide amongst doctors who have been falsely or wrongly accused.
This must be so in Australia too.
Two historical examples stand out. They merit reopening: that of the late Dr. D. A. S. Russell, medically registered spouse of the late Dr. Z. Jemeileta (case commenced in 1993 in Jemielita v Medical Board of Western Australia), and the late Dr. E. Popovic.
A contemporary example is the mysteriously incomplete Queensland coronial investigation recommendations into the death of Caitlin Porter
A two-liner piece of correspondence in the British Medical Journal by two different specialists corroborates with the evidence of the organised cartel-like dysfunction.
The Duty of Candour — a reform inferred in the Queensland Health Ombudsman’s Act?
Discussion on a statutory duty of candour to be incorporated in reforms is underway — at least in the U.K. This, in essence, means:
“A public authority’s objective must not be to win the litigation at all costs but to assist the court in reaching the correct result and thereby to improve standards in public administration”.
This also has implications for the disproportionately high numbers of practitioners with non-Anglo Saxon ethnicity in both the U.K. General Medical Council and Medical Council of NSW “fitness to practice” public domain lists.
Australian health practitioners are currently regulated by sixteen (16) times that of the number in the U.K. The numbers of unscrutinised lawyers and bureaucrats on staff remain unknown. Over regulation and micromanagement appear no better, perhaps more toxic, making the bureaucratic army’s continued existence highly questionable.
Specialist colleges, being private companies with statutory representatives, enjoy direct influence within medical and health boards. By maintaining enduring relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, their interests are conflicted and their august positions become somewhat compromised. For example, a full resolution, within the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) will likely remain speculative and divisive at best. Their exclusivity in “controlling” Australian specialist numbers must be reviewed.
Countless inquiries and costly legal proceedings have led (and will lead) nowhere but to half-truths. The government has a constitutional duty of care to Australians and taxpayers to get to the bottom of this. If Australia wishes to be considered a democracy with rule of law in the eyes of the world, it is time for the government to advise Her Majesty, the Queen of Australia, to consent to a Royal Commission on healthcare management and regulation.
The nation deserves more than the bad-taste circuses we are witnessing today.