Regulator to issue 'rare' warnings about dodgy doctors

·2-min read

New powers allowing Australia's health regulator to warn the public about fake doctors and misleading medical ads will only be used on rare occasions.

National law amendments, coming into effect on Monday, will allow the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to issue public statements on practitioners who present an immediate and serious risk to public safety.

They will only be used in exceptional circumstances, most often about dangerous unregistered people rather than currently registered practitioners.

The regulator already has the power to suspend or place conditions on a registered practitioner's publicly visible registration.

"But for a registered practitioner who has exposed patients to the potential for an infectious disease, taking immediate action to suspend them can stop more harm being done," Dr Anne Tonkin, chair of the Medical Board of Australia, told reporters.

"It may be necessary for the people who've been exposed over the previous weeks or months to be informed so that they can go and get the appropriate health care."

The regulator will not issue a statement if another regulatory power is available to address the risk.

Affected practitioners will be given reasonable time to make a submission to the regulator as to why the public statement should not be made.

If the board decides to continue with the statement, the practitioner will be given at least one day's notice.

"We don't want to cause unnecessary distress to practitioners," Dr Tonkin said.

"The purpose of this is to inform the public if there is a danger to their safety. We're not in the business of naming and shaming. That's not what this power is about."

The public statements will be published on the agency's website and social media channels, and will only be taken down when there is no longer a risk to public safety.

Muhammet Velipasaoglu, a Victorian man who claimed to be a registered dentist, is someone the regulator would have considered issuing a public statement on.

Velipasaoglu, who operated a so-called dental practice at home, performed nine root canal procedures on a patient in one sitting.

He dropped and then used the unclean instruments during the procedure, all the while smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone.

The patient suffered a severe infection after the $1500 procedure and required emergency treatment and corrective surgery.

Velipasaoglu ultimately pleaded guilty to 12 offences and was convicted and fined $20,000 with a 12-month community corrections order.

The regulator would have also issued a public statement about the Australian Male Hormone Clinic.

The clinic made claims about the benefits of testosterone deficiency treatment that were not supported by evidence, and was ultimately charged with unlawful advertising.