It was alleged that the practitioner had attended a social function, had consumed an amount of alcohol and was affected, and then, whilst on call, attended on a pregnant patient in a hospital.  It was also alleged that he conducted himself in an inappropriate manner in his interaction with the patient and her mother in that, at the consultation, he communicated with them in a way that was argumentative and failed to create an environment where the patient and her mother could discuss their decisions for monitoring, labour and method of delivery.

In the end, the complaint was dismissed for reasons to do with the way in which the complaint and particulars were formulated. Further, the Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied on the basis of the expert evidence led in the proceedings that the practitioner could have been impaired as alleged. 

However, in so finding, the Tribunal emphasised that it did not condone the conduct of the practitioner. in relation to a medical practitioner consuming alcohol while on call, the Tribunal stated:

“… in our opinion, members of the public would be justifiably concerned, as would the vast “majority of medical practitioners … to learn that any medical practitioner whilst on call had consumed 5.85 standard drinks in a period of 3.5 hours. … [S]uch conduct could be described as being significantly below the standard reasonably expected of any medical practitioner whatever his or her level of training or experience and would thereby constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct … We would regard this conduct as being characterised as improper conduct relating to the practice of medicine.

In relation to the conduct of the practitioner at the hospital, the Tribunal found that there had been marked and heated disagreement between the patient and her mother on the one hand, and the practitioner on the other concerning the appropriate medical care to be given. However, taking into account the overall context (specifically, the firm predisposition of the patient and mother to a particular course of conduct which was contraindicated in terms of the safety of the baby), the practitioner’s conduct was not so significantly below the standard that it could be characterised as unsatisfactory professional conduct.

To read the decision in Health Care Complaints Commission v Schmidt [2016] NSWCATOD 145, click here.