The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has racked up its 100th criminal prosecution, with nursing and midwifery topping professions that have been involved in breaking the law the most.
Ahpra’s first criminal prosecution was finalised in January 2014 when a West Australian woman was sentenced to a $20,000 fine for claiming to be a registered psychologist. Many of the most serious matters from the list of 100 cases occurred before the National Law change in 2019, with offenders now facing a maximum term of three years jail per offence, and maximum fines from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual, and from $60,000 to $120,000 for a corporate entity.
Nursing and midwifery figured in 27 of the criminal investigations, followed by Medical (20), Psychology (16), Dental (12), and Pharmacy (8). The most common types of offences included unqualified or fake practitioners (53), suspended or cancelled practitioners (20), and lapsed practitioners (23).
The highest fine imposed was $127,500 for a medical clinic “creating unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment” through advertising.
‘Holding out’ cases, where someone is pretending to be registered when they are not, dominated the prosecution list.
For example, a fake NSW dentist was twice prosecuted by Ahpra and fined $68,000 for performing dental acts despite having never trained or registered as a dentist. He performed root canal treatment, crowns and tooth extractions, and also administered prescription medications, namely anaesthetics, when he was not authorised to do so.
Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said the 100th prosecution was a significant moment for the organisation.
“Pretending to be registered when you’re not is a profound breach of trust with the public. We take these matters seriously and will continue to take strong action to ensure public safety,” Mr Fletcher said.