Allegation of professional misconduct. Inappropriate prescription of prescribed drugs of dependency and/or controlled drugs.

Facts

The Medical Board of Australia made a referral to QCAT under section 193 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009 (Qld) alleging that Dr Ong behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct. It was alleged that Dr Ong inappropriately prescribed pseudoephedrine (PSE) and/or restricted or controlled drugs and failed to keep adequate records in relation to 12 patients. Dr Ong was a general practitioner working in her own practice at the time.

In December 2011, following receipt of complaints, Queensland Health cancelled Dr Ong’s endorsement to deal with restricted drugs. Upon referral to AHPRA, the Board imposed conditions on Dr Ong’s registration. In February 2013, Queensland Health restored Dr Ong’s endorsement relating to restricted drugs.

On 8 March 2013, Dr Ong entered into an agreement with Queensland Health pursuant to which she agreed to work in a group practice, undertake self-audits, professional development and mentoring. Dr Ong was eventually allowed to return to sole practice, and was no longer subject to any restrictions on her practice. Her registration remained subject to conditions imposed by the Board until April 2015.

Experts for the Board (Drs Turnbull and Kable) concluded that Dr Ong had a history of prescribing narcotics in excess of approved quantities. In relation to record keeping, the experts were of the opinion that Dr Ong’s clinical notes were deficient, providing little information as to why drugs had been prescribed.

Dr Ong accepted the experts’ opinions, and admitted that her conduct amounted to professional misconduct. Dr Ong admitted to prescribing large quantities of PSE to patients where there was insufficient need, and prescribing some patients 5 to 10 packets at one time.

Decision

Having regard to the experts’ reports and Dr Ong’s admissions, the Tribunal was satisfied that Dr Ong engaged in professional misconduct. The Tribunal found that Dr Ong provided services that were excessive and unnecessary for patient well being, and that her clinical record keeping was deficient.

The Tribunal noted that Dr Ong, of her own volition, commenced mentoring and continued beyond the required period. She attended numerous educational courses and sought the assistance of her professional indemnity insurer risk advisor. Those actions, in the Tribunal’s view, demonstrated insight and an acknowledgment of her inappropriate conduct.

Orders

By agreement, the parties proposed a 1 month suspension, the imposition of conditions requiring mentoring for 12 months and auditing.

With respect to auditing, the Board considered that 3 monthly audits were required over a 12 month period. Noting the cost involved and disruption to her practice, Dr Ong asked for 1 audit at the end of the 12 month period.

Considering the lengthy period of Dr Ong’s offending conduct and extremely poor state of her clinical records, the Tribunal did not agree that 1 audit was sufficient.

The Tribunal ordered:

  1. Registration suspended for 1 month;
  2. Mentoring for 12 months; and

Audits conducted 4 months from the date of the decision, and again at the end of the 12 month period. A further audit should be only conducted at 8 months if the auditor concluded that the audit conducted at 4 months raised continuing concerns.

This article is part of our August 2016 edition of HealthFiles. You can read the full version of HealthFiles here.