ACT News

Back burns from cupping treatment among ACT health complaints

A man suffered burns when suction cups caused his back hairs to catch alight after he was convinced to have the cupping treatment at a Chinese medical practice, according to a report revealing a rise in complaints to ACT's Health Services Commissioner.

The man complained to the Health Services Commission but withdrew the complaint after the practitioner sent him flowers and issued a formal letter of apology, the ACT Human Rights Commission's 2013-14 annual report reveals.

But the commissioner launched an inquiry into the matter on public health grounds, as well as concerns about clinical issues and "whether the treatment was provided without the man's informed consent as he had attended the practice for acupuncture". 

It found the practice had since improved its "consent processes"  and provided "additional instruction" about cupping treatment. 

The practitioner was also referred to the Chinese Medicine Board and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. AHPRA was continuing inquiries, including into "appropriate use of interpreters". 

The report also revealed that the commissioner referred a specialist to a performance and professional standards panel after an investigation into a patient's death. 


The commissioner cited "the doctor's crisis management, his insistence that he was unaware of pertinent facts when the evidence appeared to indicate otherwise" and actions that appeared below the standard "reasonably expected".

The report said five medical practitioners and one nurse had been referred to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for their registration to be revoked. 

Two medical practitioners, two nurses and two Chinese medicine practitioners were also referred to performance and professional standards panels in 2013-14.  

Six medical practitioners, eight nurses, one psychologist and one dentist faced suspension - up from four suspensions the previous year. In the past year, 19 practitioners were cautioned and 12 had conditions imposed on their work. 

The report revealed that complaints received by the Health Services Commissioner reached a record high, increasing 16 per cent from 355 in 2012-13 to 413 in 2013-14.

One complaint involved a woman who claimed she had miscarried in an emergency department toilet without "the assistance of seemingly available staff". 

Of the 127 complaints made to the Commissioner about individuals, 73 per cent related to medical practitioners, 13 per cent were about dental practitioners and 9 per cent were about registered nurses. 

Only a small number of complaints were about Chinese medicine practitioners, optometrists, midwives, vets and psychologists. 

Of complaints about medical practitioners, a third were about GPs - down from 40 per cent in 2012-13; 12 per cent were about psychiatrists - the same as the previous year; 9 per cent were about orthopaedic surgeons; and 3 per cent were about obstetricians or gynaecologists - down from 13 per cent.

Complaints about private health practices and professionals were also up in the ACT, with 165 complaints received compared with 134 in 2012-13, the report said.