The key issue
The Tribunal was required to determine the appropriate disciplinary sanction to be imposed.
The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) commenced disciplinary proceedings against the respondent alleging unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct for inappropriate prescribing practices including not undertaking appropriate assessments, and prescribing drugs of addiction not in accordance with the recognised therapeutic standard.
On 14 April 2021, the Tribunal held that the respondent GP was guilty of conduct which was both unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct. The Tribunal adjourned the matter to determine the appropriate disciplinary sanction to be imposed.
The HCCC submitted that the respondent’s inappropriate prescribing practices were “gross, dangerous and reckless” and occurred over a sustained period of time and across several different patients. The practitioner had inappropriately prescribed Schedule 8 opioids to at least 16 patients over a two year period. The conduct was even more serious in circumstances where non-therapeutic prescriptions were provided with no adequate specialist assistance and it continued despite clear evidence of drug-seeking behaviour.
The Tribunal was satisfied that the respondent was not competent nor fit to practise medicine. Further, it determined that the respondent could pose a risk to the health and safety of the public if permitted to practise without adequate remediation. In this regard, the respondent provided no evidence that she had sought to rectify her prescribing practices and did not provide any mitigating factors which may have reduced the penalty imposed by the Tribunal.
As such, the Tribunal cancelled the registration of the respondent and prohibited him from applying for registration for a period of two years. The respondent was also ordered to pay 85% of the HCCC’s costs in respect of the proceedings.
Practitioners should be aware that an offer to engage in remediation strategies including undertaking further training and/or undertaking to work with close supervision prior to tribunal proceedings may be viewed favourably by a tribunal and could lead to a tribunal imposing a shorter period away from practice.
The decision Health Care Complaints Commission v Sriskanda (No. 2)  NSWCATOD 87 can be read here.
Authors: Daniel Spencer and Morgan Barnsby.