The Medical Council has the power to suspend or impose conditions on a doctor’s registration if it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so for the protection of the health and safety of the public. This power is granted under section 150 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
What constitutes a threat to the health and safety of the public?
This was explored recently in the matter of Ghosh v Medical Council of NSW  NSWCA 122.
Dr Ratna Ghosh was a general practitioner working in the Newcastle area. Between 2005 and 2016, she had been the subject of nine complaints. In September 2017, her employer terminated her employment due to her troubling behaviour with patients and the employer’s belief that she had a mental impairment.
The Medical Council convened a section 150 hearing and it found:
- Dr Ghosh did not have the capacity to communicate clearly with her patients;
- Dr Ghosh consistently commented on the ethnic, religious and class backgrounds of her patients and colleagues;
- Dr Ghosh rejected any criticism or guidance from anyone engaged in the supervision or regulation of her professional performance;
- Dr Ghosh’s manner was impulsive and aggressive; and
- Dr Ghosh’s communication style impeded her capacity for safe work practices.
The Medical Council referred to two specific incidents involving vulnerable patients – one being a child who may have been prescribed amoxycillin when the parents alleged they had told Dr Ghosh that the child was allergic to penicillin, and the other a pregnant woman whom Dr Ghosh had forcibly counselled against a Boostrix injection when such an injection was regarded as best practice. The Medical Council was also concerned about Dr Ghosh prescribing medications, including anti-psychotic medications, to her twelve-year-old son. Her son’s medical needs were complex and he had been treated by different psychologists and psychiatrists at different times.
The Medical Council considered that there were no conditions that could be imposed on Dr Ghosh’s registration that would minimise the risk to the health and safety of the public, so Dr Ghosh’s registration was suspended.
Can a doctor review a decision made by the Medical Council under section 150?
Yes. A doctor has the following options to have a section 150 decision by the Medical Council reviewed:
- Apply to the Medical Council for a review of a section 150 decision. Unless the Medical Council considers the application to be frivolous or vexatious, it must reconsider its decision and consider any new evidence submitted by the doctor that the Medical Council considers to be relevant. The Medical Council may then affirm, vary or set aside its original decision.
- If still unsatisfied with the decision, a doctor may appeal to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal which will be required to exercise afresh the discretion under section 150 based on the evidence before it and make a decision.
Dr Ghosh pursued both these avenues but the decision that she not be able to practice was upheld. She ultimately appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal which allowed her appeal on the basis that NCAT had erred in its application of the law and remitted the matter back to NCAT for re-determination.
If you have concerns about the conduct or competency of your doctor, or if you are a doctor whose registration has been limited or suspended, one of our expert solicitors can provide you with advice in a free initial consultation. Please call our office on (02) 4050 0330 or book an appointment online to arrange a no obligation consultation.