Kurt McDonald, Solicitor, Fuller & White Solicitors
Usually, regulatory proceedings against health practitioners start in the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) by the Applicant filing a referral. The Applicant, which is either the Office of the Health Ombudsman, AHPRA, or a Professional Board, must then personally serve on you the application. The Applicant must show the Tribunal that they have done so.
After this, the matter is either listed for a Directions Hearing, where Directions are given by the Judge to the parties about how the matter should proceed, or, the matter is listed for a compulsory conference which is held before a member of QCAT where the aim is to come up with a statement of agreed and disputed facts.
Usually, the directions allow for you to file a formal Form 36 Response to the matter and allow both parties to file all of their evidence, any responses to the evidence, expert reports or expert conclaves, and written submissions about sanction. The matter is set down for a final hearing date, where if the matter is contested it goes to an oral hearing. If the matter is largely agreed upon, then the matter can be decided on the papers by a Judge or Judicial Member of QCAT.
What can the Tribunal decide?
The Tribunal can decide any number of the following:
- That you have no case to answer and no further action is to be taken in relation to the matter;
- That you have behaved in a way that constitutes unsatisfactory professional performance, unprofessional conduct; or professional misconduct;
- That you have an impairment; or
- That you improperly obtained registration because you or someone else gave the relevant National Board information or a document that was false or misleading information.
If the Tribunal decides one of the above, they can also then decide to:
- caution or reprimand you;
- impose a condition on your registration, including, for example
- a condition requiring you to complete specified further education or training, or to undergo counselling, within a specified period; or
- a condition requiring you to undertake a specified period of supervised practice; or
- a condition requiring you to do, or refrain from doing, something in connection with your practice; or
- a condition requiring you to manage your practice in a specified way; or
- a condition requiring you to report to a specified person at specified times about your practice;
- a condition requiring you not to employ, engage or recommend a specified person or class of persons;
- require you to pay a fine of $30,000 to the Health Ombudsman;
- suspend your registration for a specified period;
- cancel your registration.
If the Tribunal decides to cancel your registration or if you do not hold registration, you may also be:
- Disqualified from applying for registration as a registered health practitioner indefinitely or for a specified period; or
- Prohibited from working permanently or for a stated period, from providing any health services.
Publicity and Non-Publication Orders
A recent development within this area of law is the widespread publication of your name and career in the media. Decisions by the Tribunal are published on the Supreme Court Library and are readily available to journalists who are free to publish it however they wish. At Fuller & White Solicitors, we can make an application to the Tribunal to prohibit the publication of your name in a number of different ways.
The implications of a complaint can be substantial and can end your career. Regulatory authorities such as the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) and the Office of the Health Ombudsman have the power to discipline you, suspend you from practice and impose conditions that can prevent you from working at all. The ultimate sanction that can arise from this is being permanently struck off from your profession.
-Kurt McDonald, Solicitor, Fuller & White Solicitors