31 Jan 2023
A Victorian General Practitioner has been reprimanded by a tribunal after providing treatment for himself and a close family member for a decade leading up to his retirement.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal also found that Dr David Conron failed to meet the standard of care expected in relation to three patients and failed to maintain accurate, up to date and legible medical records in relation to two patients.
The tribunal heard allegations that Dr Conron engaged in ‘lazy’ and ‘sloppy’ practice by providing treatment to a family member. This included regular prescriptions, including for psychotropic drugs and referrals for chronic conditions, despite the patient having a regular GP.
The Panel took into consideration expert opinion that confirmed that the treatment of the family member had the potential to give rise to sub-optimal outcomes, through fragmentation of the patient’s care.
As well as treating a close family member, a Medical Board of Australia (the Board) investigation revealed that Dr Conron had self-prescribed medications 106 times, recorded 107 surgery consultations and ordered five investigations for himself during the final 11 years of his practice.
Dr Conron acknowledged he had made an error by recommending a pregnant woman against having a whooping cough vaccine because he had not kept pace with immunisation guidelines. He also conceded to not being active enough in following up on a patient with deep vein thrombosis, who was subsequently admitted to intensive care.
The tribunal found that Dr Conron had failed to maintain accurate, up to date, legible medical records in relation to two patients. It was told that Dr Conron had difficulty adapting to changes in the later years of his practice, including difficulty in moving from handwritten notes to computerised note taking and keeping up to date with continuing professional development.
Despite a 2014 notification requiring Dr Conron to undertake education relating to Schedule 8 poisons prescribing, the tribunal heard he overlooked the fact his Schedule 8 prescribing permit had run out when prescribing drugs to a long-term patient in March 2019.
After the tribunal found one allegation of professional misconduct and three allegations of unprofessional conduct proven, the Board submitted that Dr Conron should be disqualified for applying for registration for three months to serve the ends of general deterrence.
Dr Conron retired in 2019 shortly before his 81st birthday after colleagues raised complaints about his conduct having served a country Victorian community for 57 years,
The Tribunal concluded that Dr Conron’s decision to resign and cease practising promptly after the complaints were made demonstrated he had insight into his conduct, and that a disqualification order was not necessary in the circumstances.
As well as ordering Dr Conron be reprimanded, the tribunal issued a final note to the wider medical profession to learn from the case:
‘It is an illustration of the difficulties which older medical practitioners can encounter in continuing to practise competently, and in continuously adapting and up-skilling in or der to keep abreast with expected professional standards, regulatory requirements and changing technology,’ the tribunal noted.
‘It highlights the need for such practitioners, and those around them, thoughtfully and insightfully, to consider the question of when to retire from active medical practice.’
The tribunal’s full decision was published on Austlii in January 2023.