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AHPRA in Wonderland (Part 2): The Hatter’s tea party continues

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After the release of the Review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions this week, Dr Leong Ng* continues his exposé of the body administering the health profession.

[Read Part 1: Down the rabbit hole: Another tea party to protect the public — or the hosts]

Part 2

Reports & Inquiries: Surrogate evidence of general and other dysfunction

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

~ The Hatter in Chap VII, “Alice Adventures in Wonderland”

BY MID-2010, surrogate markers (in hindsight) like the Patel debacle (where many issues are yet to be fully resolved), the Reeves case (NSW) and the Peters case (Vic) had already set the scene.

There was also the little known Kekyasharian Report — NSW Government commissioned inquiry in response to forced-feeding and other man-handling of protesters during an internationally publicised hunger strike by international medical graduates in front of NSW Parliament in 1998.

The Report, also known as the Race to Qualify Report, must not go unnoticed for its documentation of dysfunctional and egregious college and Medical Board actions. Indeed, at one stage, NSW Parliament suppressed it, then debated and made it publicly available (though only in private publication by Mr Kekyasharian, AM). The key recommendations were ignored by the NSW Government and, presumably, not noticed by other jurisdictions.

The 2008 NSW Garling Inquiry corroborated the various continuing facts of the dysfunction, but has been conveniently sidelined by an ever-changing successive NSW political leadership.

In mid 2010, the “Queen of Hearts” political actions by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) on Dr Chatoor in Cairns (QLD) triggered much public outrage. What resulted was an Australian Parliamentary Lower House Inquiry, which led to the (as yet ignored) report, Lost in the Labyrinth.

Rules were apparently made up on the hoof as the case proceeded and Dr Chatoor was forced to repeat a second year of peer review in another state jurisdiction (an outcome not dissimilar to that which had been inflicted upon the author in 2004 in Victoria).

It appears that some international medical and healthcare graduates, being rendered more vulnerable by the law, are softer and easier targets.

Essentially, what was recommended after healthy NSW Parliamentary debate in 1998 was ignored and the whole egregious business continued as usual into 2010 and presumably giving rise to what is seen today.

Concurrently conducted was a separate Australian Senate Inquiry, precipitated by much other disquiet that, presumably, were the “left overs” of unresolved matters of the past State health registration boards. As more national dysfunction emerged, in 2012, the Victorian Parliament commenced an Inquiry into the Performance of AHPRA, which submitted its report to Parliament in March 2014.

During this time more surrogate signs of chronic dysfunction within the regulatory system have emerged, with practitioners who have been allegedly protected by the system, along with others who have been unreasonably “attacked” (see the transcript in Prof Paddy Dewan’s submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry). 

None of the inquiries have gone anywhere toward far-reaching and fair reforms because of the limited scope of their terms of reference. Lost in the Labyrinth appears to have been mothballed by the Federal Government, probably realizing that this was the tip of an iceberg of more revelations to come.

A recent class action against AHPRA by women affected by Hepatitis C infection in the Peters case was settled out of court  (save for one) at the presumed expense to the taxpayer, with the truth eclipsed for now and “subject to judicial approval”. There has been no transparency of how much tax payers’ monies have been expended whilst dealing with AHPRA’s self-protection racket in Victoria. Further, there is no full transparency on how AHPRA had handled the complaints by the different women.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the 13 year protracted case of Dr Raj Mattu, a whistle blowing cardiologist who was persecuted and unfairly dismissed (although exonerated for unprofessional conduct by the GMC) was exposed.

This, together with a recent British government announcement and efforts to investigate the poor protection of whistleblowers, creates hope that more transparency will be required in the NHS. However, a UK caution about the various difficulties of regulation from the past must not go unnoticed and remains valid today.

More recently, incidents of extensive bullying in the Northern Territory health service have been reported in the media, suggesting an entrenched bullying culture. Part of the bullying pattern in the Territory includes poorly particularised false allegations being reported to AHPRA by a cadre of middle ranking public sector bureaucrats.

Amidst the regulator’s continuing battle cries about ‘protecting the public’, more recently, the mainstream press uncovered what appears to be a continuing sensational concealment culture involving Australian medical graduate and Australian-trained neurosurgeon, Dr Suresh Nair in NSW. This is rather hatter-like, as in Alice’s Wonderland.

Coincidentally, Queensland, being the first to enact, is also the first to reject with the establishment of the Health Ombudsman’s Bill 2013 triggered by revelations in a public interest disclosure of Queensland Medical Board impropriety and incompetence.

Paradoxically, for all its egregious actions on the basic human rights of candidates, past and present, the RACP unashamedly continues to regurgitate their share of human rights protection propaganda whilst their own house remains not quite in order. For example, with an ongoing controversial relationship with the Pharma industry, this surely brings disrepute to the profession.

AHPRA-wise, one must also not forget to mention the numerous silent sufferers amongst the allied health practitioners — especially nurses and midwives who may have been falsely accused and disciplined. These persons do not have resort to expensive justice.

Many patients and health practitioners continue to suffer the fallout of widespread alleged malfeasance, especially that of psychological false imprisonment.  A past important interview highlighting inadequacies of the Australian lower judicial system in Queensland in the Dr Patel case has been deleted from the public domain but available here.

“What is the answer to why is a raven like a writing desk?” asks Alice.

“There is no answer, really." The Hatter shouts:"It is a riddle!”

Says Alice: “How many sociopaths are at the tea party?”

“Off with her head!” says the Queen of Hearts.

“But, don't you worry about it’ — the Cavalry has arrived!” says the March Hare.

Queen of Hearts, “We have some new friends from the States of Sedopitna – the kangaroos – let us hold court!”

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll.)

Please consider signing this Petition. Part 3 ends with a proposal for a difficult, but not impossible, solution.

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