14 Feb 2022
A Melbourne-based medical practitioner who continued to practise after he was suspended, and who obstructed an Ahpra investigation into his conduct, was today convicted after pleading guilty in the Magistrates Court of Victoria following charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).
On 12 October 2018, Dr Nicholas Sevdalis’ registration was suspended by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for six months after it found he had provided care to family members in circumstances that were avoidable, and his clinical management of 23 patients was not clinically justified and exposed patients to potential harm.
Suspended practitioners cannot practise or hold themselves out as being registered anywhere in Australia. If a practitioner’s registration is suspended this is reflected on the national register of practitioners.
Despite being suspended, Dr Sevdalis continued to practise from Fairfield Family Health Centre and presented himself as a registered medical practitioner to patients, a pharmacist and entities such as the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and VicRoads. He consulted and treated patients, issued a medical certificate, authorised the dispensing of medication, reported to VicRoads on patients’ fitness to drive and licence issues and liaised with the TAC and a vocational rehabilitation firm on behalf of patients.
On 30 April 2019, Ahpra executed a search warrant at Fairfield Family Health Centre as part of its investigation into allegations that Dr Sevdalis had been practising whilst suspended. During the execution of the warrant, he obstructed an Ahpra investigator from seizing a document by taking it and locking himself in a bathroom. He remained in the bathroom for 15 minutes and when he came out of the bathroom the coversheet of the document was gone.
On 9 May 2019, after VCAT’s suspension ended, Dr Sevdalis’ registration was suspended again by the Medical Board of Australia under immediate action to protect public health or safety.
Dr Sevdalis pleaded guilty to eight charges of holding himself out as registered on various dates between December 2018 and August 2019 and one charge of obstructing an Ahpra inspector in contravention of the National Law1 in the Magistrates Court of Victoria.
Dr Sevdalis was convicted, and a 24-month community corrections order was imposed, which requires Dr Sevdalis to complete 300 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $30,603.07.
Magistrate Lennon described Dr Sevdalis’ offending as ‘brazen’ and commented that while Dr Sevdalis’ conduct may have been intended to assist others, his preparedness to hold himself out while suspended, ‘takes breathtaking attitude and a defiant, if not contemptuous, attitude towards the regulator’.
Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said: ‘We will not hesitate in taking action against anyone who practises as a health practitioner without being registered. We hope this is a strong deterrent to anyone who might seek to act in this way.’
The Chair of the Medical Board, Dr Anne Tonkin, said: ‘To continue to practise after you have had your registration suspended is unacceptable. Falsely claiming to be registered erodes the high trust the public places in the medical profession.’