On 26 September 2014 the Tribunal handed down its decision in relation to this matter. The Health Care Complaints Commission sought a decision pursuant to section 149C(4)(a) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) 2009 (86a) (the National Law) that if Dr Goh was still registered as a medical practitioner the Tribunal would have cancelled her registration.
The proceedings arose from allegations that the practitioner had been guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct in relation to the prescription of benzodiazepines for herself as well as her forgery of various medical certificates in order to avoid random drug testing which had been imposed by the Medical Council. In addition to this, allegations were made that the practitioner had failed to comply with various conditions that had been imposed on her registration and that the practitioner has an impairment within meaning of section 5 of the National Law, which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect her capacity to practise medicine.
The Tribunal noted that the medical practitioner had a history of abuse of benzodiazepines and that up until 28 July 2014, shortly before these proceedings were heard; she was a registered medical practitioner. On that day, by her own request, her name was removed from the register of practitioners.
The medical practitioner admitted that she had been guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct having engaged in improper or unethical conduct relating to the practice of medicine by writing false prescriptions and giving false information to her treating psychiatrist as well as writing false medical certificates in the name of her general practitioner. Further, she admitted to contravening conditions imposed on her registration. The medical practitioner also admitted that these matters constituted
professional misconduct. Similarly, she admitted that she had an impairment which was likely to detrimentally affect her ability to practise medicine.
The medical practitioner however, did not admit that she was not competent to practise medicine as a result of her addiction and abuse of benzodiazepines and zolpidem or her major depressive episodes with anxiety and panic attacks. In this regard she left this matter to be determined by the Tribunal. The medical practitioner did not appear before the Tribunal to give evidence however, she was represented by counsel. The Tribunal noted that their role was protective rather than punitive and that they are required to take into account the maintenance of standards of the medical profession, maintenance of public confidence in the profession and protection of the community.
In its findings the Tribunal accepted the Commission’s submission that the misconduct was very serious and that expressions of remorse and regret are important indicators of insight. The Tribunal found that there was a lack of such expression of sufficient insight or awareness in relation to the medical practitioner’s past conduct. In the absence of this and the medical practitioner’s unwillingness to explore the implications of her past misconduct on others rather than herself the Tribunal was not comfortable that she had gained sufficient insight and had the required strategies to avoid a repetition of such breaches in the future.
The Tribunal was not satisfied that the medical practitioner was currently physically or mentally competent to practise medicine. The Tribunal concluded that if the practitioner’s registration was still current they would have cancelled it for a period of one year taking into account the fact that the medical practitioner had been suspended from practice since August 2012.
When reaching a decision on appropriate orders the Tribunal will always have regard to its primary function to protect the public. Further, the Tribunal must also have regard to appropriate orders to maintain the public’s confidence in the medical profession. In instances where a practitioner lacks the required insight into their conduct the outcome is likely to limit their ability to practise medicine on the basis that a repeated breach is more likely to recur.