27 Jul 2015

Council defends vetting after alleged identity fraud

6:33 am on 27 July 2015

The Medical Council is defending its vetting criteria after a man accused of using someone else's papers treated mental health patients in the Waikato.

A man appeared in court on Saturday charged with fraud.

The DHB referred the case to the police after a senior psychiatrist supervising the man became concerned about his work. The man had been working as part of the mental health team for six months, from 19 January to 17 July.

Medical Council chair Andrew Connolly said to obtain New Zealand registration an applicant had to undergo a rigorous and detailed process.

"We require their original degrees, we don't accept copies. We must see original documentation and that is independently verified when they arrive in New Zealand - that includes their medical school as well as their specialist training certificates," he said.

"We require at least three referees who are practising in the same speciality as the doctor, and who have worked in recent times with the doctor, and we need to be able to contact them via their professional setting - the hospital they are working in.

"And we require a certificate of good standing - which is a bit like a medical passport - from any jurisdiction the doctor's been registered in the preceding five years."

Mr Connolly said those seeking to work as a specialist were required to submit records of their training and experience to the relevant specialist college in New Zealand which he said was very good at identifying any gaps or inconsistencies in training.

Once doctors arrive they practice under close supervision.

"So we do an awful lot of checks and balances to reassure the public of New Zealand that the doctors coming here are not only well trained, but also competent and who they say they are."

Up to 1200 international graduates seek registration in this country each year. The council last dealt with a case of fraudulent identity was 17 years ago, concerning Polish psychiatrist Dr Linda Astor.

Mr Connolly said that showed the medical council's processes were robust.