30 Apr 2019
Following criminal charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), in a landmark decision, a Tasmanian court has imposed the largest fine against an individual for offences under the National Law in Australia with the conviction of a suspended physiotherapist, Mr Michael Sylvester Dempsey for holding out.
On 19 February 2019, Mr Dempsey pleaded guilty to charges of holding out 11 people as registered physiotherapists or occupational therapists, when they were not. Today, Mr Dempsey was convicted and fined $120,000.
Mr Dempsey admitted in the Tasmanian Magistrates’ Court in Launceston to knowingly holding people out as registered health practitioners, when they were not, at various aged care facilities in Tasmania. The charges were laid by AHPRA under the National Law.1
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said this outcome demonstrates the regulator’s determination to protect the Australian community from such unlawful and deceptive behaviour.
‘The deliberate, intentional and deceptive behaviour uncovered as part of this case is of the most serious kind perpetrated on vulnerable people in aged care facilities.
‘AHPRA will not hesitate to take action if we identify someone is practising as a registered practitioner when they are not registered,’ he said.
‘It also highlights the importance of the public and employers checking the online national register of practitioners to make sure services are being provided by a registered health practitioner. If you think someone is not registered – and they should be – tell AHPRA,’ he added.
AHPRA started its investigation after receiving a complaint from a registered chiropractor employed by Mr Dempsey’s company Libero Health Care Pty Ltd (Libero).
Following its investigation, AHPRA alleged that Libero was engaging unregistered people to provide regulated health services, specifically complex health care to residents at aged care facilities. AHPRA also alleged that the people held out by Libero to deliver services were not registered practitioners and had been instructed to falsely assume/sign the names of registered practitioners when providing treatment to residents in the aged care facilities they visited.
The people held out came from unrelated sectors including hospitality and transport, to provide pain management services to around 78 patients whose ages ranged from 67 to 99 years of age across several aged care facilities in Tasmania.
On 21 January 2019, Libero was placed into liquidation and is no longer trading and on 27 September 2018 Mr Dempsey had his registration as a physiotherapist suspended by the Physiotherapy Board of Australia.
The Physiotherapy Board of Australia Chair Ms Kim Gibson and Occupational Therapy Board of Australia Board Chair Ms Julie Brayshaw joined in unison to welcome the court’s ruling as a strong deterrent.
‘To claim another person is registered, when they are not, is serious as it puts vulnerable people at risk and threatens patient safety. We expect registered practitioners to know better. This type of intentional, unlawful behaviour will not go unchecked. Together with AHPRA, we as National Boards will continue to ensure regulation of physiotherapists and occupational therapists to protect the public,’ they said.
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual holds registration with a national health profession board, can check the register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA. If they are not listed contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.