16 Dec 2019
The Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal (tribunal) has reprimanded Richard Hwai Seng Kuan who had previously been a radiation oncologist, and disqualified him for applying for registration for three years and a half years after finding him guilty of professional misconduct by understating his income and, in doing so, defrauding the Department of Health.
Mr Kuan was practising as a specialist radiation oncologist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital during the time that the events occurred, between 2007 and 2013. He was subject to an arrangement under the relevant industrial agreements that he would personally receive all income from the treatment of private patients. He was required to submit to the Department of Health an annual signed statement of earnings that declared his private practice income for the financial year and the amount of private practice income received that must be paid to the Department of Health. This included a contribution to a special purpose account for hospital/department purposes and from 7 February 2008, a compulsory contribution for the use of certain hospital facilities. On the basis of the declaration, the Department of Health would invoice him and he was required to pay the contribution.
Mr Kuan admitted that over the course of eight years, he under-reported his private practice income, intentionally defrauding the Department of Health and thereby gaining a total benefit of $1,497,889.
On 24 October 2016, Mr Kuan was convicted in criminal proceedings of eight counts of gaining a benefit with the intent to defraud by deceit or any fraudulent means. He was sentenced to a total effective sentence of imprisonment of four years and six months.
The Medical Board of Australia referred Mr Kuan to the tribunal for professional misconduct on 20 March 2017, after the criminal proceedings concluded.
In making its decision, the tribunal noted that Mr Kuan had admitted he had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct, and that he and the Board had agreed upon a penalty.
By way of mitigation, Mr Kuan submitted that his term of imprisonment was the best and most effective form of deterrent for both him and other members of the profession. He also stated that he had paid back the full amount owing and had demonstrated insight and remorse.
The tribunal reprimanded Mr Kuan and disqualified him from applying for registration for three years and a half years, with the disqualification period extending beyond Mr Kuan’s parole period. He was also ordered to pay the Board’s costs to a total of $2,600.
At the time of the proceedings, Mr Kuan was unregistered, having not renewed his registration in 2015. The Board stated that because of the seriousness of the conduct, it would have sought cancellation of his registration if he had still been registered.