ACT News

Medical centre owner failed to report employee for relationship with patient

The owner of the Belconnen Medical Centre failed to report a doctor he employed for having a sexual relationship with a patient during Medicare-billed consultations.

Owner Dr Nathem Al-Naser treated the patient for the effects the relationship had her on health during six consultations between October 2012 and March 2013.

The treatment included the preparation of a mental health plan for the patient and a referral to a clinical psychologist for treatment.

But Dr Al-Naser did not take any action and allowed his employee, Dr Maged Khalil, to continue working at the northside surgery until after the psychologist and patient reported the relationship to the Medical Board of Australia.

In 2013, Dr Khalil was officially reprimanded, banned from practising medicine for nine months, ordered to work with a mentor, see a psychologist, and undergo supervision for six months upon returning to work.

Dr Khalil met the patient in 2012 and treated her for a depressive illness.

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Despite the professional association, the pair dated and performed sexual acts at the surgery during consultations which were then claimed through Medicare.

The pair spilt in October 2012, and the patient sought treatment from Dr Al-Naser for depression over the break-up.

The medical board took Dr Al-Naser to ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal over his failure to report Dr Khalil.

ACAT general president Linda Crebbin, in a judgment published on Thursday, also found Dr Al-Naser had acted inappropriately.

"In the course of providing treatment to the patient, [Dr Al-Naser] engaged in physical contact with the patient and made comments of a personal nature regarding the patient's youthfulness, her looks and her similarity to a former girlfriend," Ms Crebbin wrote.

"The comments were made in a way which [Dr Al-Naser] thought reflected the context of counselling consultations, however, they were inappropriate, particularly in circumstances where the patient was a victim of a sexual misconduct boundary violation."

The ACAT found Dr Al-Naser had engaged in professional misconduct and ordered he be officially reprimanded.

The tribunal also banned him from supervising a practice he owns or works in for two-years, ordered he attend monthly meetings with a mentor for one year, and directed him to undergo professional development courses, including in medical ethics and cultural awareness.

Practices owned by Dr Al-Naser have come under the medical watchdog's spotlight in the past, with two other practitioners at the Belconnen surgery sanctioned.

In 2013, The Canberra Times reported that Dr Janardhana Naidu Bobba had a number of unknown restrictions placed on him to protect the public.

Dr Ammar Dhaimat was last year convicted of committing two acts of indecency on a woman and five charges of possessing anabolic steroids.

Meanwhile, Dr Gamal Helmy, who was employed at Conder Surgery, was reprimanded by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission in 2009 over his inappropriate management of a patient with complex medical problems.

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