Ms Jennifer Jiang received treatment for mental illness. Her registration was suspended when she failed to comply with conditions imposed on her registration as a psychologist by the relevant authority. During the period of her suspension, she continued to practise as a psychologist. She also stopped taking medication for her mental illness. As a result of this, the Health Care Complaints Commission of New South Wales ('the Commission') brought disciplinary proceedings against her in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of New South Wales ('the Tribunal').

Background Facts

Ms Jiang was a registered psychologist who had a history of psychotic illness. From August 2015 to February 2016, she had conditioned imposed on her registration by the Psychology Council of New South Wales. These included requirement to practise under supervision, work in a group practice and undergo treatment and review for her mental health issues. Ms Jiang breached these conditions by failing to undergo supervision, establishing her own solo practice, obtaining client information from a previous employer and providing unsupervised services to some clients. As a result, her registration was suspended on 16 February 2016.

On 29 April 2016, Ms Jiang appealed to the Tribunal. This appealed was dismissed on 10 August 2016. However, between 16 February 2016 and 29 March 2016 (during which time she was suspended), Ms Jiang continued to work as a psychologist. She provided services to 12 clients during this period. She also made claims to Medicare for the provision of these services. Ms Jiang claimed that she was not aware that her registration was suspended until April 2016.

Ms Jiang subsequently stopped taking medication for the mental illness, stating that it was preventing her from falling pregnant. Following this, her consultant psychiatrist reported her to AHPRA. At the disciplinary proceedings, she indicated that she had changed her mind and preferred to remain on her medication than fall pregnant.

The Commission alleged that these justified a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct. In addition, it alleged that Ms Jiang had an impairment which was detrimental to her capacity to practise as a psychologist, in that she had a psychotic illness with paranoid persecutory features and has had several periods of hospitalisation for psychotic episodes. Ms Jiang however, claimed that she had completely recovered from her condition.

Findings

The Tribunal found that the conduct of Ms Jiang was improper and unethical. It held that even if she was not aware that her registration had been suspended before April 2016, the law did not require that she be aware that her conduct was improper at the time. She was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.

The Tribunal found that Ms Jiang lacked insight into the realities of her condition, given that she appeared to believe that she was completely cured of her illness, contrary to available evidence that, to be mentally well enough to practice, she needed to remain on her medication. This lack of insight was a cause for concern to the Tribunal, considering that Ms Jiang had ceased taking her medication at some stage.

The Tribunal ordered that Ms Jiang be deregistered for a period of 12 months to enable her deal with the issues of concern. On an application for re-registration, she is to demonstrate the necessary insight and readiness to work as a psychologist. She was ordered to pay the costs of the Commission.