Have you had a complaint against you that was dismissed in a tribunal as without merit? Your entry in AHPRA’s publicly accessible online registry of practitioners will still list this complaint and link to the relevant court or tribunal ruling, the regulator has decided.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority has announced that it has already begun to publicly link disciplinary and court decisions to the registration details of doctors, regardless of whether the doctor has been found guilty of anything.
Around 50 rulings made since February have already been added to the register, implementing a recommendation made by an independent review authored by Professor Ron Paterson on the practice of chaperoning to protect patients from doctors subject to allegations of sexual misconduct. In that review, Professor Paterson recommended that “the public register of health practitioners include web links to published disciplinary decisions and court rulings”.
Also quoted in that review is the Chair of the Medical Board of Australia Dr Joanna Flynn, who says that “the public has a right to know if there are conditions on a doctor’s registration or if there have been serious disciplinary or criminal offences proven against a doctor. It’s long overdue.”
The register will now include links to all court and tribunal rulings concerning a doctor, except for those which involve the doctor’s health.
But many are concerned that posting all rulings in the register, even when no rulings are made against the doctor, is going a step too far.
Medical defence organisation Avant says the move is “unfair and punitive, particularly for practitioners with no adverse findings against them”. Although the Medical Board of Australia has said that “no adverse finding” will be noted on the register, Avant says it is “concerned that this will be misinterpreted and misunderstood”, and that the allegations will be given more weight than the findings.
Earlier this year, Avant’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Penny Browne spoke on the issue at the AMA’s National Conference.
“A finding made many years before, that has no relation to the doctor’s current practice or conditions, will remain linked to the AHPRA register in perpetuity,” she told delegates.
“Imagine that you or I have been through the stress of a tribunal hearing and finally the findings state ‘allegations not proven’. It’s all over. You then try to move on with your life and later discover that the link to the decision is placed against your name on the AHPRA register with a subscript stating ‘allegations not proven’.”
She said that while transparency was important, the medical complaints process was already stressful for doctors.
AHPRA’s most recent annual report notes that of the 2718 matters involving medical practitioners settled over the year, the vast majority (71.2%) resulted in no further regulatory action.