2016 May - Complaints Committee
The Board has reviewed and determined 12 complaints made against veterinarians since October 2015. Of these, 1 complaint was withdrawn, 5 complaints were dismissed, 1 complaint was dismissed with a recommendation made, 2 veterinarians were found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and cautioned, 1 veterinarian was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and reprimanded and 1 veterinarian was found guilty of professional misconduct and reprimanded.
For any complaint determined by the Board, the Board may dismiss the complaint, may find the veterinarian guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct, or may find the veterinarian guilty of professional misconduct.
A finding may be made on the basis of any breach of the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 or the Veterinary Practitioners Code of Professional Conduct (schedule 2 of the Veterinary Practice Regulation 2013). A finding may be made as a result of, but not limited to, unsatisfactory performance relating to animal welfare, availability, maintenance of skills and knowledge of current standards or provision of referral. An adverse finding may also be made on the basis of conduct with respect to the reputation of the veterinary profession, the keeping of and provision of medical records, the obtaining of informed consent for services, compliance with the regulations regarding the supply of restricted substances or the rules of animal sporting organisations or non compliance with any requirements of registration or any conditions placed on a practitioner’s registration.
These aspects of veterinary conduct, veterinary practice and compliance requirements are outlined in the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 and Veterinary Practitioners Code of Professional Conduct (Code) and are accessible by practitioners and members of the public from the Board’s website under Resources, Legislation, Veterinary Practice Legislation.
When a veterinarian is found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct the Board will issue a caution or a reprimand (more serious). The Board is also able to fine a veterinarian an amount up to $5,000. The Board may impose conditions on a veterinarian’s registration after a complaint investigation in order to restrict their practice or to try to address any deficiencies; for example a requirement to complete specific continuing professional development courses.
Of the three veterinarians found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct since October 2015:
- A veterinarian was cautioned and fined as a result of failing to comply, without reasonable excuse, with continuing professional development (CPD) requirements determined by the Board. An audit of CPD points declared in the annual returns of a randomly selected group of registered veterinarians who have completed their 3 year CPD cycle is carried out each year and veterinarians who are selected in this process are required to provide verification of the minimum required 15 structured points for this cycle.
- A veterinarian who provided a consultancy service to a dairy farm was cautioned and fined for failure to ensure records were kept of consultations, treatment recommendations and medications prescribed for the treatment of the holding’s dairy cows. The Code requires that a veterinary practitioner ensures that a detailed record be made of any consultation, procedure or treatment as soon as is practicable; that this record be legible and in sufficient detail to enable another veterinarian to continue the treatment of the animal if required; and that all records be retained for at least 3 years after they are made (clause 15). This requirement applies to any consultation (including those involving physical examination or telephone consultation), treatment recommendations and the prescription of medication to companion or large animals, individual animals or herds.
- A veterinarian was reprimanded and fined after performing major surgery in unlicensed premises and performing a debarking and a declawing procedure without complying with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation 2012 prior to (clauses 21 and 22) and after surgery (clause 23).
One veterinarian was found guilty of professional misconduct and fined after it was established that his care of a whelping bitch presented with dystocia was not to current standards and that he failed to utilise the skills of colleagues by referral and failed to keep a detailed record of the dog’s treatment. The Board recommended that the veterinarian undertake CPD in small animal reproduction (either structured or unstructured) and provide a report to the Board on the management of a bitch presenting with dystocia.
The Board has the power to dismiss a complaint against a veterinarian but may offer a recommendation or advice with the aim to prevent similar issues. A recommendation was made to a veterinarian to ensure that the date of any previous vaccination of a horse for Hendra virus (HeV) was confirmed by accessing the vaccination register before administering a subsequent HeV vaccination.
As noted above, 1 complaint was also withdrawn by the complainant. The Board’s investigation process enables each party to share written submissions for the other party (and the Complaints Committee) to consider. Communication difficulties often lie at the heart of a complaint and this process and these submissions may provide an opportunity for each party to gain a greater understanding of the circumstances of the complaint which in turn may lead to the complaint being withdrawn.