The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has censured a Doctor and ordered him to pay $45,000 after he took too long to return to hospital while on call, and also for refusing to provide treatment advice.

The Doctor was a specialist in his area and on call for the hospital in case of emergencies. A patient came to the hospital and was seen by a junior doctor.

The decision was made that the patient was getting worse and needed to see a specialist. The Doctor said he would return to work, but it was an hour before he returned and performed an urgent procedure on the patient.

On a second occasion, when the Doctor was asked for advice on how to treat the patient, he did not provide advice and, based on what he was told over the phone, said he would see the patient in the morning.

The Tribunal held that the Doctor’s actions amounted to professional misconduct. The Doctor’s contract said that while on call, he would return to the hospital within 15-30 minutes if needed. An hour was well outside that timeframe.

Additionally, the refusal to provide advice to hospital staff over the phone, requiring them to find another specialist to consult, put the patient’s health at risk.

The Tribunal censured the Doctor and ordered him to pay the costs of the investigation totaling $45,000.

Where a practitioner is on call, or consulted remotely for advice, they must ensure that they respond in a timely manner, and provide the proper advice. Failing to do so can put the lives of patients at risk and may result in serious disciplinary consequences.

If there are concerns about a practitioner’s professionalism or conduct, it is wise to speak with a professional in the area.

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Christian Merten
Rainey Collins Lawyers
Wellington, New Zealand

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