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DHB investigates potential identity fraud

The Waikato DHB is in the process of contacting the approximately 25 patients who may have been directly affected by a former staff member who appeared in court today in Hamilton on a fraud charge.Waikato DHB logo

Waikato DHB’s internal processes have identified concerns about the documents presented by a person employed as a consultant psychiatrist. Enquiries by the DHB and the Medical Council of New Zealand indicate that the documents, may have been obtained and used by another person.Medical Council of New Zealand

As these enquiries raised serious issues of potential identity fraud, this person is no longer employed by the Waikato District Health Board and is unable to carry out medical duties in New Zealand. The Police were notified. Based on the information provided by the DHB, the Police have arrested a man who appeared before the District Court in Hamilton on the morning of Saturday 25 July 2015. He faces a charge of fraud and was remanded in custody. He has been granted interim name suppression.

“We are extremely concerned and our first priority is for the safety of our patients and their families. The information to date has not identified any harm to patients and we will continue to assess the situation” said Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

“The person was under the supervision of a senior psychiatrist while working at the DHB.The supervisor raised concerns about their professional ability, ultimately withdrawing supervision, which resulted in immediate withdrawal of the person’s ability to practise.”

The Mental Health and Addiction Service have identified patients and families that had contact with the person in question.
“Whilst most patients seen by this person have subsequently been reviewed and are receiving appropriate care and treatment we have identified approximately 25 patients who have not been further followed up,” said Dr Murray.

“We are actively working to contact each patient / family. Each patient will be offered follow-up services as soon as possible”.

Before employing any staff member in a clinical role, checks by a number of organisations are completed. This includes the DHB and the Medical Council. These checks were carried out in this case and on the information available to the DHB and the Medical Council currently, verified the person’s qualifications and ability to practice in New Zealand. This raises concerns about the potential for fraudulent activity and those matters are before the Court. The organisations will further review their systems and processes to strengthen their ability to identify potential fraud of this nature.

This person was employed within the Crisis, Triage and home based treatment services between the 19 January and 17 July. These services are responsible for triaging all contacts with mental health services and directing them to the service best placed to meet their needs. This person worked within a multi-disciplinary context and usually saw patients in the company of another member of staff.

If you are a patient or have a family member who was seen by the triage, Crisis or Home based treatment teams during this time and are concerned that you might have been seen by this person or would like general reassurance, please phone the Triage Service 0800 50 50 50 or Email: mentalhealth@waikatodhb.health.nz

Frequently asked questions

1. How long was this person working here?

Approximately six months

2. How could the DHB employ a doctor with uncertain credentials?

While all these checks were carried out in this instance, the two organisations will be reviewing their systems and processes to further strengthen them against fraud. Our Credentialling process includes checking all qualifications and certificate of good standing. We also require three references from professional colleagues. We check each reference verbally. We also accept applications from reputable employment agencies and require them to carry out a thorough due diligence. These documents are presented to the Electoral Committee for review before a job is offered. All positions are only offered subject to due diligence by the Medical Council of New Zealand.

3. What do you have in place to stop this happening again?

The systems are working well and this is how we were able to pick this person up. His designated supervisor is employed by Waikato DHB. The supervisor played a critical role in overseeing the person’s practice and acted decisively in raising issues. As a result of these concerns his practise was suspended and a review of his credential were put in place. Never the less, in light of all these matters we will be continually reviewing and refining processes.

4. What checks are in place for a doctor to work at Waikato DHB?

We verify an applicant’s academic and professional qualifications and their credentials to ensure that they have the legal right to work in NZ. The Medical Council carry out a thorough process of review as well and issue the annual practice certificate with the relevant scope of practice.

5. Was this process followed in this particular case?

We believe we did follow the right process that is currently in place but that is something that our own enquiries and the police investigation will need to confirm.

6. How do you know that the DHB doesn’t have any other doctors with uncertain credentials employed?

While we believe these processes are effective, we regularly refine and strengthen our processes regarding credentialing and privelaging of our doctors, particularly in light of the potential of identity fraud.  

7. Has any patients have been harmed or harmed anyone else because of the person?

None that we are aware of but we are continuing to review the situation.

8. How many patients did this person see?

Mental Health care is provided by teams of mental health professionals, he was part of the team. There were approximately 25 patients who were not seen in this team environment which he saw.

9. If he was being supervised, how come he saw patients without supervision?

Psychiatrists working under supervision are not supervised all of the time. This person had regular meetings with his designated supervisor to discuss his work.

10. Can you assure the public that systems and processes are in place to protect the NZ population from fraudulant doctors practising here?

The Medical Council undertakes a wide range of checks before granting registration to any doctor. These include obtaining Certificates of Good Standing from overseas medical regulators, and sighting the doctor’s original qualifications etc. The Council is reviewing this case to ensure all appropriate robust systems and processes are in place.

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