On 3 April 2019, the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal found a dentist, Dr Ho, guilty of professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct after he failed to renew his registration and knowingly treated patients while unregistered.

Background Facts

Dr Ho was a dental practitioner who was first registered in 1997. The Dental Board of Australia (the Board) alleged Dr Ho had engaged in one count of unprofessional conduct and one count of professional misconduct.

The two charges arose from Dr Ho’s:

  • failure to provide the Board with written notice of a change of principal place of practice within 30 days as required under s 131 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 (National Law) (Allegation 1 – unprofessional conduct);
  • failure to renew his registration under the National Law before the expiry of the registration on 6 January 2016, in circumstances where he knew that he intended to continue practising and continued to practise as a dentist:
    • between 7 January 2016 and 4 February 2016, in circumstances where he knew or ought reasonably to have known that he was not a registered practitioner under the National Law;
    • between 5 February 2016 and 19 February 2016, in circumstances where he knew or ought reasonably to have known that his registration had expired and that he was not a registered practitioner under the National Law; and
    • between 5 February 2016 and 19 February 2016, in circumstances where he knew or ought reasonably to have known that his registration had expired and that he was not a registered practitioner under the National Law;
  • performance of restricted dental acts during the period 5 February 2016 and 19 February 2016 in contravention of section 121(2) of the National Law; and
  • failure to ensure that his practise was covered by professional indemnity insurance where he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that practising whilst unregistered would or might affect his cover under professional indemnity insurance (Allegation 2 – professional misconduct paragraphs 2-4 collectively).

In September 2015 Dr Ho changed his principal place of practise from Bridge Street Eltham to Arthur Street Eltham but failed to notify the Board until 5 February 2016.

On 23 November 2015, the Board sent Dr Ho an email reminding him to renew his registration. He failed to renew his registration. On 6 January 2016, his registration lapsed.

From 7 January to 4 February 2016, he provided services, while not registered (without realising), to approximately 88 patients valued at approximately $39,083, payable by patients, before any Medicare or private health fund rebate.

On 5 February 2016, Dr Ho became aware of his lapsed registration and contacted AHPRA regarding renewal. On 9 February an AHPRA registration officer advised Dr Ho to immediately stop practising until his registration renewal was approved.

Despite this Dr Ho continued to practise from 5 to 19 February providing services to approximately 66 patients valued at approximately $27,501, payable by patients, before any Medicare or private health fund rebate.

Findings

The Tribunal found that each of the allegations was established and Dr Ho had engaged in one count of unprofessional conduct and one count of professional misconduct.

Orders

The Tribunal ordered that Dr Ho be reprimanded and imposed a fine in the amount of $7,000 to be paid to the Board. In determining the sum of the fine the tribunal raised with the parties whether the fine should be somewhat lower, given that five months had passed before Dr Ho was registered. The parties noted that the fine had already been discounted to account for this time.