05 July 2017

An independent inquiry into an Indian national who used fraudulent documents to work as a doctor in the NSW public health system for 11 years has found that a similar fraud would not succeed today.

Shyam Acharya worked as a junior medical officer in public hospitals in Northern Sydney and the Central Coast between 2003 and 2014.

The review found the fraud he perpetrated, using documents stolen from Dr Sarang Chitale, would not be possible today because of more stringent review processes in place to register and oversee international medical graduates.

Former Health Care Complaints Commissioner Kieran Pehm and Dr Robert Herkes, Clinical Director of the Australian Commission of Quality and Safety in Health Care, have provided their report into the circumstances surrounding the registration, employment and management of Mr Acharya to NSW Ministry of Health Secretary, Elizabeth Koff.

“This was a sophisticated fraud perpetrated by an inpidual who appears to have had some medical knowledge,” Ms Koff said.

She said the fraud was possible because the inpidual posing as a doctor was able to gain medical registration and other Commonwealth documents such as a passport using the name and qualifications of a real doctor.

“NSW Health’s recruitment processes are much more robust now than they were in 2003 and I’m assured this could not happen today.”

Clinical records of inpidual patients who came forward to the reviewers were examined and they found none of these patients had been harmed. NSW Health also conducted its own comprehensive review of patients treated by Mr Acharya to identify if he was associated with any critical incidents or adverse outcomes.

The Inquiry found Mr Acharya was closely supervised while working in the NSW public health system by more senior doctors.

NSW Health has accepted all recommendations of the Inquiry which included developing a system to electronically retain supervision reports regarding junior medical officers and annual performance reviews of more senior medical officers.

The Inquiry also recommended NSW Health audit compliance with its policy requiring performance agreements and formal annual performance reviews for medical officers, and develop documents outlining the minimal capabilities for a doctor to be in charge of a hospital out of hours.

Mr Acharya’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Link to Inquiry report is avialbe in the Section 122 Health Services Act: Independent Inquiry Relating To Mr Shyam Acharya (also known as Dr Sarang Chitale) page.

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