Defending Doctors Against Allegations
Doctors are often unfairly targeted by unqualified health practitioners, dissatisfied patients, and medical facilities that want to protect their own interests and deflect the blame of their own failings on hard-working professionals. Administrators sometimes also engage in these practices as a means to protect their own positions, with little care for the harm caused to medical practitioners doing their best everyday to care for their patients.
These complaints are, in many cases, lodged through AHRPA, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. When not dealt with correctly, these allegations can have serious consequences and cause persistent stress, anxiety, and unwanted distractions. Repercussions of complaints can range from gaining a negative reputation to revocation of your license to practice. When you’re facing allegations of malpractice or misconduct, it’s important to have an attorney on your side that understands the complexities of the medical industry and knows how to handle these cases effectively.
Know Your Legal Requirements
As a doctor or healthcare professional, you are required to maintain certain standards of care. Knowing your legal obligations and rights is not only a first step in responding to allegations, but can prevent allegations. If you are accused of breaching these standards, it’s important to know your legal rights and requirements.
AHPRA is the national body operating under separate state and territory legislation which oversees the registration and regulation of health practitioners in Australia. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with their regulations and processes. Knowing your legal rights can also ensure you are treated properly and according to the law. Additionally, it is important to understand that AHPRA’s powers have limits. Regulators are also bound by regulations they must follow and this includes treating practitioners fairly according to the law.
Complaints lodged through AHPRA
If you’re a doctor facing allegations from AHPRA, it’s important to know your rights and how to defend yourself. One of AHPRA’s main roles involves managing and investigating complaints, known as “notifications”, that are made against healthcare professionals. For example, complaints can be made to AHPRA where a practitioner:
- Is practicing in an unsafe way. For example, while intoxicated
- Engaged in sexual misconduct
- Poses a risk to public health and safety
However, this is not an exhaustive list, and more information can be found on the AHPRA website. After a notification has been made, it undergoes a process of consideration by the board and AHPRA, who decide the next steps. These steps may involve investigations and health or performance assessments. In some circumstances, matters will be referred to a panel or tribunal. However, decisions are not always final and some types of decisions can be appealed.
Receiving a notification can be extremely distressing and intimidating, which is why it is important to receive expert legal advice early in the process. An experienced solicitor can advise you on the limits of the investigator’s powers and to ensure those limits are followed.
How we can help
At Hazan Hollander, we specialise in health and medical law. Our legal team has extensive experience in defending medical practitioners against complaints made through AHPRA. However, AHPRA is not the only threat to the career of a healthcare practitioner. Our team is also experienced in defending healthcare professionals in workplace disputes and against defamation. We help practitioners involved in complaints and disputes to ensure they are treated fairly, that due processes are observed, and that investigators, hospitals, and administrators act within the boundaries of the law.
If you would like more information on defending your license to practice and what your legal rights are as a healthcare practitioner, get in touch with our team today. You can call us in Melbourne on (03) 8538 1676, in Sydney on (02) 9233 4266, or submit an online enquiry below: