Court side with plaintiffs in medical negligence case

Date:Feb 01, 2019

Patients aren't the only group of people who can suffer medical negligence. As the below case demonstrates, a breach of duty of care can occur to those working alongside certified practitioners too.

Background of the case

In December 2017, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) sought orders of the National Law alleging that a registered NSW physiotherapist was guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct. Amongst the orders were four complaints, each sharing similar traits.

The details of the first complaint

Subject A worked as a receptionist at the medical centre. She was involved in a car crash and sustained injuries to her back, hip and leg. Upon noticing her walking in pain, the physiotherapist offered her treatment. However, at the consultation, the court found that he failed to obtain an adequate history from Subject A before commencing treatment. At the consultation the practitioner inappropriately touched and exposed the patient, and engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature towards the person.

The orders stated that the practitioner engaged in:

  • Conduct that demonstrates the knowledge, skill or judgment possessed, or care exercised by the practitioner in the practice of physiotherapy is significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.
  • Improper or unethical conduct relating to the practice or purported practice of physiotherapy.

What restrictions were placed on his licence?

On 16 June 2014, the Physiotherapy Council of New South Wales conducted proceedings pursuant to the National Law. Between 16 June 2014 and 1 August 2016 the practitioner's registration as a physiotherapist was subject to the following conditions:

  1. The practitioner is to obtain the approval of the Council before changing the nature of and place of practice.
  2. The practitioner is not to consult, treat, interview or examine any female patient including work colleagues in any practice context, including any research position unless a chaperone (an adult third person) is continuously present.

Throughout, the defendant denied the majority of allegations against him.

What did the court decide?

The court found that the practitioner had breached the second condition, and had examined female patients without a chaperone. It was also concluded that his treatment of staff was not as comprehensive as that provided to patients. This included failing to make detailed assessments, diagnosing the patient's problem and deciding on the most appropriate techniques.

It was therefore established that the practitioner failed to comply with his professional responsibility to keep accurate notes - a requirement for good practice and continuing good care of patients. The hearing is due to take place in late February of this year.

If you're a victim of medical negligence and wondering what your entitlements are, get in touch with the expert legal team at Gerard Malouf & Partners. We may be able to help you receive compensation for your misfortune. 

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