1 Nov 2017

New system to help snare bogus doctors

10:00 am on 1 November 2017
A doctor with a stethoscope writes up a medical record

Photo: 123RF

Doctors who treat patients without the necessary qualifications are rare in New Zealand, but it has happened.

In September a bogus psychiatrist, Mohamed Siddiqui, was sentenced in Hamilton to four years imprisonment for deception and forgery.

Siddiqui had a medical history, but not in psychiatry, when he worked at Waikato Hospital.

Mohamed Siddiqui at a previous appearance.

Mohamed Siddiqui Photo: Pool / Alan Gibson

A member of the local district health board, Dave Macpherson, put two and two together.

"As soon as I got the name privately I searched for it on the internet and the psychiatrists in the United States narrowed it down to only one Mohamed Siddiqui, and that was clearly a different person from the photographs that were seen of him here in Hamilton."

In 1996, a bogus Polish psychiatrist, Linda Astor, conned her way into a job at Wellington's Hutt Valley DHB, releasing a violent patient who then killed his girlfriend.

From today, the Medical Council will require doctors who did not train in Australasia to pay for extra vetting before they work here.

It will be done by US-based not-for-profit Educational Commission, with an electronic system known as EPIC.

Medical Council chair Andrew Connolly said it would bolster current processes, ensuring people were who they said they were.

Waikato DHB acting chief executive Derek Wright said there would never be another Siddiqui.

"The Siddiqui case was a very clever fraud. You know he managed to get through the DHB's checks, he got through immigration checks, he got through the Medical Council checks.

"I think were EPIC ... in place it would have made it significantly harder [to] defraud us the way that he did."

About 1000 overseas-trained doctors apply to come to this country every year, making up 43 percent of New Zealand's medical workforce.

Chief Medical Officers group head Ken Clark

Chief Medical Officer's group head Ken Clark. Photo: Supplied

The chief medical officer at MidCentral DHB in Palmerston North, Ken Clark, welcomed the move.

"I think as long as these steps are sensible, efficient, both in a timely fashion and a cost-effective way, then I think we should be undertaking them."

He said it would end confusion about who was responsible for such vetting, the council or individual DHBs.

"At the moment there's been, at times, a falling between two stools in terms of knowing who is or should be checking in regards to verifying the qualifications of doctors applying from overseas, and this avoids that confusion."

Doctors applying through the new system will pay about $100 upfront, and the same sum for each document needing verification.

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