NSW Medical Council handling of a former University of Newcastle doctor has prompted calls for greater regulation of the medical profession

Under investigation: Former University of Newcastle associate professor Richard Reid, whose response to regulators is now in the spotlight.

Under investigation: Former University of Newcastle associate professor Richard Reid, whose response to regulators is now in the spotlight.

THE medical profession has been accused of “turning a blind eye” to public safety issues after serious questions about NSW Medical Council monitoring of a former University of Newcastle associate professor.

The council’s monitoring of gynaecologist Richard Reid from 2011 failed to detect an allegedly false referral from another doctor who was under close Medical Council supervision because of serious substance abuse.

The doctor with substance abuse problems was suspended in 2014, only weeks after the allegedly false referral appeared in a surgical log Dr Reid was required to supply to the Medical Council every three months, after serious complaints by women about Dr Reid linked to pelvic mesh surgery.

A patient advocate told the Newcastle Herald there was no contact between the referring doctor and the patient in Dr Reid’s surgical log.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge slammed the Medical Council after a spokesperson confirmed the monitoring of Dr Reid did not include checking the veracity of detail in the logs he supplied, but was confined to confirming the type of surgery he performed.

“There was no condition placed on Dr Reid that required him to record the name of the referring doctor. Information regarding the referring doctor provided by Dr Reid was therefore not the subject of monitoring by the Medical Council,” a spokesperson said. 

This was despite Medical Council knowledge of Dr Reid’s “extensive complaint history”, including complaints in Australia and his suspension in America in 1997 after serious complaints by many women, and evidence of his failure to comply with a direction to include all surgical procedures in the log.

The allegedly false referral in Dr Reid’s surgical log in 2014 occurred as the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission investigated further complaints by women after pelvic mesh surgery by Dr Reid.

“When you have a profession that is self-regulated the danger is it adopts an ethos that protects its members rather than the public,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“This is not an isolated case. We see with the profession that it too often turns a blind eye to its own internal failings at the expense of what is in the public interest.”

A NSW Medical Council attempt to suspend Dr Reid in 2014 was unsuccessful, and led to complaints about the council’s handling of Dr Reid’s successful appeal to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Dr Reid’s suspension was overturned on appeal despite the tribunal hearing a NSW Medical Council performance assessment team knew by December, 2013 that Dr Reid was not complying with the condition to maintain a log of all his surgical procedures.

The tribunal noted that between September, 2012 and September, 2013 “eight procedures out of 38 undergone by 16 patients had not been listed” in his surgical log book submitted to the Medical Council.

Victoria’s new public health watchdog, Safer Care Victoria, is investigating allegations Dr Reid took part in pelvic mesh surgery involving the Australian-invented and manufactured Tissue Fixation System (TFS) mesh device in May and June, 2013, without the knowledge or approval of a Melbourne public hospital, and after questions by the Newcastle Herald.

The doctor whose name appears on Dr Reid’s surgical log as a referring physician was under NSW Medical Council supervision from early 2011 for serious substance abuse linked to a serious mental health condition.

The doctor was found guilty of professional misconduct in November and suspended for six months after six years of conditions that were repeatedly breached.

“The complaints that are admitted involve considerable dishonesty and deceit,” the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found.

“They include conduct of the practitioner of obtaining the passwords of colleagues to access their patient records without their consent or knowledge. It involved creating false records in the names of colleagues in the practice and prescribing Pethidine for patients for the purpose of taking and using some of the Pethidine dispensed pursuant to the prescription for each of those patients.”

The tribunal said the six-month suspension was to protect the public and demonstrate to “the public and the profession the disapproval of such conduct and supporting public confidence in the profession”.

Dr Reid did not respond to a request for comment.