06 May 2021
A tribunal has reprimanded a former Victorian general practitioner and disqualified him from applying for registration for two years for professional misconduct after holding out a member of his staff as a registered health practitioner when they were not, misleading regulators and failing to practise medicine safely.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Mr Roger Bernard to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal), alleging that he had held out Ms Phoebe Pacheco as a registered medical practitioner, by delegating and referring patients to her and knowingly allowing her to consult and/or treat patients when he knew, or should have known that Ms Pacheco was not a registered health practitioner. The Board also alleged that Mr Bernard failed to practise medicine safely by pre-signing blank prescription forms, pre-signing blank radiology and pathology request forms, incorrectly storing medications, possessing expired medications and failing to properly dispose of sharps. It was also alleged that he had made false and/or misleading statements to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).
The allegations dated from June 2016 to November 2016, when Mr Bernard, then a general practitioner was practising at the Werribee Cosmetic Clinic. The Board suspended his medical registration in November 2016 and accepted the surrender of his registration in April 2020.
This conduct also resulted in criminal proceedings on 19 November 2018, and a successful statutory offence prosecution by Ahpra, where Mr Bernard pleaded guilty to and was convicted of seven charges of knowingly claiming an unregistered person was registered and fined $16,500. Ms Pacheco also pleaded guilty and was fined $7,500 as part of this prosecution.
The tribunal considered the matter on 18 March 2021 and found that Mr Bernard had engaged in professional misconduct, reprimanded him and disqualified from applying for registration for two years from the date of the orders.
The tribunal noted that the conduct in each of the allegations involved deception in almost every aspect of the practise of medicine, in that he (through his holding out of Ms Pacheco) deceived patients receiving care, Medicare, other health practitioners including pharmacists, pathologists and radiologists, and the health practitioner regulator – Ahpra. Therefore, the tribunal concluded, a two-year disqualification was necessary and appropriate, considering the importance of specific deterrence and given Mr Bernard’s disciplinary history.
The tribunal’s decision was published on the AustLII website on 18 March 2021.