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Medicus Webinar to Auckland Medical Students

Last month Medicus hosted a webinar for the Auckland Medical Students Association, entitled, “But It Won’t Happen To Me”.

But of course, it can and even does, happen to each of us. One does not have to be a bad practitioner to be the recipient of a complaint. Indeed, even highly competent and professional practitioners may find themselves the subject of a complaint.

In the course of the webinar, a number if points were made by our various speakers which are worth highlighting to members:

  • Gaeline Phipps presented a case study in which a junior doctor found herself defending her actions to a Hospital enquiry over a patient death, in the face of lack of support by her consultant, and her registrar. Although she was ultimately exonerated, the case highlighted the point that every member of the team needs their own support, because colleagues cannot be relied upon to see things in the same way. There can seem to be different versions of the truth! Never rely on the truth to get you out of trouble - professional help is what you require!

  • Dr Pippa McKay spoke of the dangers of social media, and the risk that injudicious use of this can lead to damage to doctor-patient relationships and doctor-colleague relationships. She spoke also of being careful with use of personal mobile phones for photographing/sharing interesting lesions or information. Such use can so easily lead to an inadvertent breach of privacy. Remember too that advice given on-line, or over the phone may be subject to the same levels of professional scrutiny as in-person consultations. Either refrain from giving advice in these arenas, or make suitable record or what has been said/given.

  • Dr Wayne Cunningham spoke of the impact on a health professional that is commonly felt following receipt of a significant complaint, in almost any jurisdiction. Medicus prides itself on providing the highest quality medico-legal advice when this is required, and we now propose developing an additional service, to be made available in appropriate situations, for the provision of professional and personal support to those who may need it. This will be provided initially, as a trial, by Dr Wayne Cunningham, who is a very experienced GP, teacher and now Medicus Board Member. Such support may not only help you cope with what is happening, but perhaps also help you with finding the mechanisms for avoiding such trouble in the future.

  • Finally, Dr Andrew Dunn provided a summary of some of the many jurisdictions in which health professionals can find themselves being challenged. The most common of these are of course, the Health &Disability Commissioner, the Medical Council through a PCC or professional conduct committee, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, the Coroner’s Court, and ones’ own Institution. But do not forget the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Both are very likely to feature more regularly in the future and can impose significant fines and awards of compensation.

In any, or all of these situations, it is preferable to engage with Medicus early. Well-constructed and timely initial responses to complaints by the health professional, with appropriate oversight or guidance from experienced medico-legal experts can often see matters settled more quickly and/or appropriately, than if professional advice is not sought in the initial stages.

For those who may be interested in hearing the full webinar, this can be viewed/listened to here.


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