Sydney, 15 March, 2017
Not just fines, jail terms should also be given to fake doctors
Shyam Acharya stole the identity and medical degrees of someone else and then entered Australia where he worked as a junior doctor in 4 NSW hospitals during 2003-2014. He was on a limited medical registration and was permitted to work under supervision. He never went through rigorous medical registration processes.
Shyam Acharya obtained Australian citizenship too. After co-workers developed suspicion about his medical background in 2014-15, when he worked with pharmaceutical companies, a complaint was made to Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Authority (AHPRA). AHPRA has taken him to the court under relevant laws. He is facing a maximum of $30,000 fines. His exact whereabouts are unknown, but the latest reports point this place to be India.
NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, is rightly keen for the relevant rules to be amended so that Mr Acharya or anyone else who acts or pretends as a doctor, but is not a registered doctor and not entitled to hold himself/herself out as a medical doctor, is also punished with a jail term. Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, supports this proposal.
NSW Health is exploring the possibility to recoup the money paid by NSW Government to this fake doctor by forcing a sale and seizing his share in this house, which he co-owns in Ryde. This house is apparently worth $1.5 million.
Multiple investigations are under way currently to get to the bottom of how a fake doctor could work for 11 years within NSW Health and obtain Australian citizenship, and how it took more than a decade to find his illegal activities.
We have a grave concern about this case because of its real and potential consequences for patients. We are concerned also because of its potential to create a substantial harm to medical profession, especially to those who share his geographical origin as a way of their background or ethnicity.
System failed here big time, but it is well-known that systems and processes for medical registration in Australia have been tightened in 2013. Identification and credentialing are performed stringently.
We are hopeful that investigating authorities will find out ins and outs of this matter, and get him extradited from wherever he is currently hiding. He must be brought to justice.
We believe that fines alone are not sufficient penalties for such people. Custodial sentences should also be in place to punish the culprits and create a significant deterrence against such behavior.
Not just fines, jail terms should also be given to fake doctors.
It is not appropriate or permissible for people to write “Dr” before their names and hold themselves as medical practitioners if they are not registered as a medical practitioner in Australia.
Similarly, there is a trend for some with a PhD from overseas to write “Dr” before their names, even when they are working in a totally unrelated area (to the field of their PhD). The purpose behind this is to gain undeserved reputation and credibility. Unfortunately, some of these people are known to have very poor integrity and are involved in disreputable, if not illegal, activities like exploitation of vulnerable people. People should not be permitted to hold themselves out as scientists or research scholars, with word “Dr” before their names, if they are not working in the field of their PhD.
Dr Yadu Singh