Reprimand reversed for 'doctor denial' GP
A GP who told the mother of a sick infant he was not a doctor because he was running late to work has successfully overturned a reprimand and a fine.
WA GP Dr Trevor Hoffman had been reprimanded and fined $1000 by the Medical Board of Australia, which found he had acted improperly in the course of his medical practice when he told the woman he was not a doctor on the morning of 1 December, 2009.
But a WA State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) review found the correct decision was to caution Dr Hoffman and that both the reprimand and fine were, in all the circumstances of the case, excessive and unwarranted.
The tribunal heard the woman had brought her son to the Ellenbrook Medical Centre for treatment but arrived before a doctor was available and approached Dr Hoffman in the doorway outside the centre to ask if he was a doctor.
Dr Hoffman said he was not a doctor and went inside, leaving the woman in the doorway outside the centre.
Two days later the woman made a complaint to the Medical Board of Western Australia and Dr Hoffman admitted he had acted improperly.
The Professional Standards Committee recommended to the MBA Dr Hoffman should be cautioned but the board chose to reprimand and fine him, prompting Dr Hoffman to lodge his appeal with the tribunal.
He told the tribunal he was running late for work and his conduct was out of character; the result of financial stress, the ill health of his wife and his workload.
Dr Hoffman said he recognised he had made a mistake and made efforts to see the woman and her child, who were by that time being seen by another doctor, and had attempted to apologise to the woman by telephone on several occasions.
The tribunal found Dr Hoffman’s behaviour was “a momentary lapse” caused by stress and he had demonstrated recognition of his impropriety and a “deep regret”.
Dr Hoffman told the tribunal the publication of the finding, the caution and the complaint and disciplinary process had served a “very salutary lesson”.
The tribunal said this should “sufficiently ensure that neither he nor medical practitioners generally will engage in improper conduct by denying being a doctor when asked that question by a member of the public who appears to be in need of medical assistance”.