Tribunal hears appeal against Immediate Action – grants stay

04 Mar 2016

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has given a medical practitioner six weeks to find a supervisor and a group practice to work in, while other restrictions on his registration imposed by the Medical Board of Australia remain in place.

Dr Geoffrey Kemp has appealed a decision by the Medical Board of Australia to restrict his registration as an interim step to keep the public safe, pending ongoing regulatory inquiries.

VCAT has not yet heard Dr Kemp’s full appeal, but has allowed him six weeks to find work in a group practice with an appropriate supervisor. VCAT also increased the frequency of supervision and reporting requirements. Dr Kemp’s appeal against other conditions imposed by the Board in September 2015 and December 2015 will be heard at a later date.

Background

In August 2014, the Board received a notification from a doctor who was concerned about Dr Kemp’s treatment of a patient with multiple sclerosis. After an investigation, the Board required Dr Kemp to have a performance assessment.

The Board had separately referred Dr Kemp to a Performance and Professional Standards Panel which in August 2015 expressed concerns about Dr Kemp’s prescribing practices and knowledge.

Around this time, the Board also received a confidential notification about Dr Kemp’s prescription of antibiotics in conjunction with Warfarin, and his recommendation to a pharmacist that the Warfarin be discontinued and the antibiotics continued.

In September 2015, on learning the result of the performance assessment, the Board exercised its power under the National Law to take ‘immediate action’ to restrict a practitioner’s registration as an interim step to keep the public safe, pending ongoing regulatory inquiries. After hearing submissions from Dr Kemp, the Board imposed five conditions on Dr Kemp’s registration requiring him to:

  • prescribe only in accordance with the Australian Therapeutic Guidelines
  • comply with the Medical Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct Good medical practice
  • undergo a fortnightly audit of his files
  • undertake education in prescribing software, and
  • acknowledge that reports can be provided to the Board from the Auditor and may be relied upon by the Board, that the Board may reconsider the matter and that Dr Kemp is responsible for the costs of the reports from the auditor and the education.

In December 2015, after considering Dr Kemp’s submissions, the Board decided to continue the existing five conditions and imposed three additional conditions:

  • Dr Kemp is only to work in a group practice approved in advance by the Board and where there is at least one other medical practitioner on site at the practice
  • Dr Kemp is not to practise without a work place supervisor approved in advance by the Board, and
  • Dr Kemp is not to use homeopathic medicine.

Dr Kemp applied to VCAT in January 2016 for a review of the Board’s decision to impose these conditions. On 10 February 2016, VCAT gave Dr Kemp six weeks to find a group practice and a supervisor, but has not yet heard his appeal against the other conditions on his registration, which remain in place until the case is heard in full. At the hearing, VCAT noted that the conditions that were imposed did not prevent him from practising medicine, but required him to practise under supervision.

At the hearing, the Tribunal noted that Dr Kemp’s application for a limited stay, “was not a hearing about whether or not Lyme disease is prevalent in Australia and if so how it should be treated ... nor was it about any matter before the current Senate Inquiry into the medical complaints regime, or whether or not in the long term there should be any restrictions placed on Dr Kemp’s ability to practice medicine”.

During the hearing, VCAT considered the report of performance assessors and an auditor of Dr Kemp’s medical practice. The tribunal noted that the report, “raised serious concerns about Dr Kemp’s ability to practice medicine in accordance with good practice and to do so safely. These were broad and wide-ranging and related to Dr Kemp’s general clinical practice standards, his knowledge of up to date good medical practice, his record keeping, his understanding of drug interactions and his prescription practices”.

Dr Kemp had agreed to the conditions the Board imposed on his registration. However, he advised the tribunal that he had unexpected difficulty in making the necessary arrangements to practise with other doctors, which had led to the closure of his practice in December 2015.

The tribunal noted public safety was the priority, but should be maintained with as little damage to the practitioner as possible.

To balance the competing interests, VCAT found that the supervision condition should remain in place, and be increased to weekly meetings and review, but that the group practice condition should be delayed for six weeks.

The Medical Board argued against deferring the group practice decision on public safety grounds. In granting Dr Kemp extra time, the tribunal recognised that Dr Kemp had practised medicine for 48 years, had never been sued or ordered to pay compensation and has never lost a patient as a result of treatment.

VCAT amended the conditions so that meetings between Dr Kemp and his supervisor must be weekly, with the supervisor able to report any concerns to the Board at any time. All other conditions remain in place.

The reasons for the tribunal’s decision are on the Austlii website.

For more information

  • Visit the AHPRA website
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Page reviewed 4/03/2016