18 Oct 2022
In 2020, the Paramedicine Board of Australia (the Board) suspended the former paramedic’s registration after it was advised that the practitioner had failed to comply with conditions imposed by the Board on their registration to submit to regular urine drug screening and hair analysis and attend a health assessment, after returning a positive drug test at their workplace. The Board found that the practitioner posed a serious risk to the public.
Suspended practitioners cannot practise or hold themselves out as being registered anywhere in Australia. If a practitioner’s registration is suspended this is reflected on the national register of practitioners.
Despite being suspended, the defendant continued to practise as the only paramedic on a remote mine site in Queensland, completing 24 shifts over the next 6 weeks. At no time did they notify their employer that their registration had been suspended. Further, they lied to Ahpra by advising they were unemployed.
The defendant pleaded guilty to one charge of holding themselves out as being registered in breach of section 116(1)(c) of the National Law.1
Ahpra protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified can claim to be registered. It is a criminal offence for anyone to hold themselves out as being registered when they are not registered, including if they are suspended.
The practitioner was sentenced in the Cairns Magistrates’ Court. Magistrate Terence Browne imposed a fine of $5,000, with no conviction recorded. The defendant was also ordered to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $2,357.
Magistrate Browne commented that the defendant was ‘the only person at the mine site that was responsible for the lives of the people who worked there. They needed to be able to go to work in those conditions in the knowledge and comfort that there was a competent and safe paramedic there…. going to the heart of this matter is the importance of their expectation’.
Magistrate Browne also noted that the defendant ‘failed a drug test. And every effort was made by Ahpra to assist [the defendant] to keep [their] registration. [The defendant] didn’t cooperate with Ahpra or the conditions before [they] were suspended. Clearly the door was left open for [the defendant] but [the defendant] didn’t engage with the system or Ahpra’.
Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said: ‘This outcome should act as a strong reminder that we will take strong regulatory action if you betray the public’s trust by lying about your registration and place patient safety at risk.
The Chair of the Paramedicine Board, Professor Stephen Gough, said: ‘Registration shows that a paramedic has the skills and qualifications to provide safe care to the public and that they meet the high standards set by the Board for our profession. Claiming to be registered when suspended undermines the important work and role of registered paramedics and the Board will continue to take action against those who actively deceive the public.’
This was the first prosecution for the Paramedicine profession since it joined the National Scheme on 1 December 2018.
Anyone with concerns about the registration of a practitioner can contact Ahpra on 1300 419 495.
1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law)