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Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Page: 763

FRAN BAILEY (8:39 PM) —On 2 October last year, residents of Kinglake, in my electorate, contacted the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria with serious concerns about their overseas trained GP, Dr Hassan Alkazali. These people, in the presence of the local police, made me aware of their concerns. The most serious allegations were, firstly, Medicare fraud, and I am advised that those making the allegations have signed statutory declarations to this effect. The Medicare fraud relates to a sustained and regular practice of overbilling for appointments and overservicing. One example of this is generating surgical procedures for mole removal, regardless of the reason for consultation. The second allegation was PBS fraud. This relates to Dr Alkazali using patients’ healthcare cards to buy prescription drugs, including pethidine. Finally, what I regard as the most serious charges are incorrect diagnosis and a lack of care that have led to needless, prolonged suffering by patients. Emergency surgery had to be performed to save the life of at least one patient that I am aware of who had a condition misdiagnosed by Dr Alkazali, to prevent permanent damage caused by a course of treatment prescribed or action carried out by Dr Alkazali.

I have been advised of 64 such serious cases, and many of the people affected have made both personal and written representation to the Medical Practitioners Board. The reason I am raising these issues here tonight is that the medical board has taken no action to suspend Dr Alkazali’s licence to practice. It has done nothing to protect the residents of Kinglake.

Let me provide this House with some examples of why I am totally at a loss to understand why the medical board has not acted to suspend Dr Alkazali. The first relates to a man who sought medical attention because of severe pain and other symptoms over a period of eight weeks. At no time were tests ordered to assist in diagnosis. Rather, the patient was told to take a painkiller and rest. In sheer desperation, as this man’s condition was deteriorating, his wife took him by ambulance to the Northern Hospital, where he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and prescribed appropriate medication. For two months, this man suffered extreme levels of pain and discomfort needlessly. He died not long after. His widow, still dealing with her grief, decided that no-one should have to go through what her husband endured, so she bravely decided to tell her story to the medical board. On travelling to Melbourne to meet with the board, she was forced to encounter the very person who caused so much suffering to her husband—Dr Alkazali—even though she had been assured of confidentiality.

The second case involved another man who, over many weeks, sought assistance from Dr Alkazali for severe and worsening stomach pain. He too was told to take a painkiller and rest. He too was eventually rushed by ambulance to the Northern Hospital and underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. By the time he reached the operating theatre his situation was life-threatening. The surgeons saved his life, but that man has ended up with a colostomy for the rest of his life.

On another occasion, the local vet intervened and advised a patient he knew that the lump that Dr Alkazali was going to remove in his surgery was an operation that should be performed only in a hospital. I am also advised that, as an overseas trained GP, Dr Alkazali has never worked with any supervision from other GPs.

Mr Speaker, it states very clearly in the Health Professions Registration Act 2005 that the medical board is established to protect the public by ensuring that medical practitioners are registered and to investigate the professional conduct, professional performance and ability to practise of overseas trained medical practitioners. Professional conduct relates to the manner in which the medical practitioners perform their tasks. Serious allegations have been made. In the time available to me tonight, I have only scratched the surface. The medical board has a duty to protect the public, the residents of Kinglake, and it must fulfil its duty now. (Time expired)