24 Apr 2018
A tribunal has reprimanded a general practitioner and has imposed conditions on his registration, including gender-based restrictions which prevent him from treating female patients.
In October 2017, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) found that a Canberra General Practitioner, Dr Mohamed Helmy, had engaged in unprofessional conduct and subsequently imposed sanctions on his registration, restricting his practise. In March 2018, the tribunal published its reasons for imposing these sanctions.
In March 2016, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) received a notification from a female patient, alleging that Dr Helmy had acted improperly during a medical consultation. In response to this notification, the Board took immediate action and placed conditions on Dr Helmy’s registration. These conditions prevented Dr Helmy from treating any female patients or patients under the age of 18 at all. In taking this immediate action, the Board considered two previous notifications it had received from patients about Dr Helmy’s conduct.
In August 2016, Dr Helmy appealed these immediate action conditions to the tribunal. In that appeal, the tribunal decided to vary the Board’s conditions to permit consultations with females and patients under the age of 18 provided that a chaperone was present, whilst the Board’s investigation into Dr Helmy’s conduct continued.
After the Board’s investigation was completed, allegations of sexual misconduct were referred to the tribunal. The hearing in relation to these allegations was conducted in August 2017.
The allegations considered by the tribunal in August 2017 included the following:
The tribunal also considered whether Dr Helmy had committed any boundary violations.
In October 2017, the tribunal decided that three instances of unprofessional conduct by Dr Helmy had been proven. The tribunal also found that the practitioner had engaged in a pattern of inappropriate sexual conduct. Further, the tribunal concluded that he had breached an undertaking he had previously given the Board to not provide medical services to certain categories of vulnerable patients.
In its decision, the Tribunal stated that Dr Helmy’s conduct was substantially below that reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training and/or experience. The tribunal also stated that Dr Helmy failed to meet the standard of practice articulated in the Board’s Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia and also failed to meet the standard of practice outlined in the Board’s Sexual Boundaries: Guidelines for Doctors which provides specific guidance to practitioners regarding sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship.
On 24 January 2018, the tribunal ordered that further sanctions were to be imposed on Dr Helmy’s registration following the findings in relation to his conduct. The tribunal reprimanded the practitioner and removed nine chaperone conditions that they had previously imposed on his registration in August 2016, replacing them with several gender-based conditions to be in place for a period of 18 months.
These conditions imposed by the tribunal in January 2018 prevent Dr Helmy from seeing any female patients and also children that are in the care of females. The tribunal also imposed new conditions involving supervised practise and further education to be undertaken in relation to ethical behaviour and cultural awareness with a specific focus on the avoidance of boundary violations with female patients.
The Board had submitted that the conditions ultimately imposed by the tribunal were necessary as it offered a safe and suitable means by which Dr Helmy could resume practise while still providing for the safety of the public and in particular female patients.
In its reasons for imposing the new conditions, the tribunal stated ‘The combination of education, continuous supervision before and after the gender restriction, and the time away from treating females at all should be an effective means of providing for public safety and providing support for the practitioner to establish a practice armed with the guidance and learning provided by the supervisor and the education.’
The tribunal’s reasons for the decision to impose these new conditions were published on 2 March 2018 and can be viewed on the tribunal website.