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Fake occupational therapist treated almost 100 people

A man who treated almost 100 patients while posing as an occupational therapist has been fined $9500.

Charles Okwera Duku, 26, told his employer he had relevant university qualifications, along with a valid registration from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

He was hired for the company's occupational therapist role on February 28, 2020, and went on to work in aged care centres in Victoria and Tasmania between March 2 and March 15.

He treated 96 patients over a period of 74 hours. None of the patients were injured as a result.

The employer became suspicious of Duku when he provided a photocopy of his agency registration, which showed a number linked to a different practitioner.

Duku was fired on March 8, 2020, and the regulator was notified of his offending.

The 26-year-old Victorian on Thursday pleaded guilty in Sunshine Magistrates Court to working as an occupational therapist while unregistered.

Duku, who represented himself at court, told the magistrate his partner had been pregnant at the time and they were struggling for money.

He has since started working in the defence force while supporting his young daughter and parents.

Magistrate Kay Robertson described the offending as inherently serious because an untrained and unqualified occupational therapist could inadvertently harm a patient during treatment.

But Ms Robertson accepted Duku had taken responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty.

He was also a young man who had the opportunity to move on and be a good father and son, the magistrate said.

Duku was convicted and fined $4000. He was also ordered to pay $5500 in court costs.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which prosecuted the case, welcomed the penalty.

"Deceptive behaviour such as falsely claiming to be registered, will not be tolerated," the agency's chief executive Martin Fletcher said in a statement.

"Patients rightly expect that those providing regulated health services are qualified to do so.

"This case highlights the importance for employers to use the national register when checking a health practitioner's registration, rather than paper certificates."