12 Nov 2021
A South Australian chiropractor has been reprimanded, had his registration cancelled and been disqualified for 12 months after he failed to hold appropriate professional indemnity insurance for seven years.
Dr Nicholas White was notified in May 2018 that he had been selected for random audit of his compliance with registration standards for the period 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017. Following his failure to provide appropriate evidence despite several requests, Ahpra initiated an investigation on 31 May 2019.
Dr White was alleged to have practised as a chiropractor between 15 January 2012 and 20 June 2019 without holding any appropriate professional indemnity insurance (PII) coverage.
The Chiropractic Board of Australia (the Board) also alleged that Dr White failed to comply with compulsory professional development (CPD) requirements between 1 December 2012 and August 2019, including failing to hold a valid first aid certificate. In addition, Dr White had made false declarations on his applications for renewal at registration for each of the years 2013 to 2018 claiming that he had met the PII and CPD requirements.
The Board referred the matter to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) on 22 May 2020.
Dr White did not dispute that he practised from 2012 to 2019 without appropriate PII cover and without completing the required formal CPD requirements. The tribunal had a strong impression that Dr White knew he was not insured throughout the period from 2013 to 2017 but dealt with him on the basis that he was unaware until 2018 that his insurance had lapsed.
Dr White conceded there was a lack of ‘due diligence’ on his part, including in relation to incorrect statements he made on his applications for renewal of registration and on an audit checklist when audited by Ahpra.
However, the tribunal noted that: ‘It is a fundamental aspect of practice that appropriate PII cover is in place. Failure to ensure this is not mere lack of due diligence. It is a fundamental professional failing.
‘To practice without appropriate PII cover for such an extended period of time is professional misconduct. It was conduct that placed patients at significant risk if an incident was to occur.’
The tribunal found that Dr White was knowingly dishonest when he claimed to have met the PII and CPD requirements on the audit checklist and in his 2018 renewal declaration. Dr White’s dishonesty caused the regulator to renew his registration and allowed him to continue to practise without PII cover.
The tribunal also found that Dr White made dishonest statements to Ahpra during an interview in August 2019 and in an email in October 2019. He also made false and misleading statements to his insurer in an attempt to obtain retroactive cover in June 2019.
On 27 May 2021, the tribunal found that Dr White had engaged in professional misconduct and ordered that he be reprimanded, his registration cancelled and he be disqualified for a period of one year.
The disqualification period was to ‘bring home to Dr White and other practitioners the critical importance of maintaining PII cover and the absolute necessity of honesty and integrity in dealing with the regulation authorities’; and to reinforce that serious misconduct in these areas will lead to significant sanctions.
The tribunal’s decision was published on the Austlii website on 8 September 2021.