AHPRA complaint story leads to doctor’s petition
Last month we wrote about AHPRA’s new policy with regards to its publicly accessible register of medical practitioners. This register will now link individual entries to court and tribunal rulings on complaints about doctors – even if the doctor in question was found to have done nothing wrong.
Our story was read by Victorian radiologist Dr Steel Scott, who was prompted to set up a petition to call for a stop to linking unfounded complaints on the AHPRA register. The petition has clearly hit a nerve with Australia’s medical community, with well over 11,000 people signing the petition at time of this publication.
In an update, Dr Scott says he has sent letters to AMA Victoria, the RACGP, Avant Mutual and to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. AMA Victoria has referred his letter to the national office, and the RACGP has responded to say it is preparing a communication to AHPRA to raise concerns on the issue. Avant says it supports the petition and further action, while Greg Hunt and AHPRA have yet to comment.
Dr Scott says that linking to rulings with no adverse findings is effectively tarring the innocent with the same brush as those who have been found guilty.
“With the dramatic statistics relating to medical practitioner mental health and suicidal ideology, and having first hand worked with colleagues who have sadly committed suicide due to the stress of our profession, it is clear that we need to help protect our fellow practitioners reputations and mental well-being,” Dr Scott writes.
“As such, it is crucial that we protect our colleagues from having the negative stigma, stress and violation of practitioner privacy, which will result from having our innocent colleagues tribunal results listed in perpetuity.”
But Dr Scott stresses that he supports adverse tribunal results being documented and registered against a guilty practitioner’s name, as this is in the best interests of patient safety.
The petition has prompted hundreds of written responses.
“There are already supports being put in place to assist doctors with the mental stress/anguish of having an AHPRA complaint put against them and yet here we are having to fight for the unfounded complaints to be stricken from our registration record,” writes one doctor. “How many doctor suicides does the board and AHPRA need to take this seriously? As a governing body for doctors there seems to be no advocacy for the rights of the individual doctor.”
Another writes: “This means anyone unlucky enough to come across an unreasonable patient would have his/her name stuck with mud. For such a complicated industry that requires extensive knowledge that hardly seems fair or helpful for anyone. A perfectly capable doctor might be avoided for all the wrong reasons.”