Unregistered but still practising

By Sandra Conchie

A Bay dental technician illegally made and fitted dentures for 29 patients.

Craig Ralph Aspinall, 51, of Papamoa, was fined $15,750 after performing work when he was not registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand.

He was sentenced in Tauranga District Court this week on one charge that he claimed to be practising as a health practitioner. He was also sentenced on 10 representative charges of performing a restricted activity, which are offences under the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act.

Under the act, oral health professionals must be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand and hold a current annual practising certificate (APC).

The Ministry of Health prosecution stems from Aspinall touting for business in a community newspaper in October last year.

He advertised himself as a clinical dental technician despite not being registered and not having an annual practising certificate.

Aspinall was pictured in the advertisement beside a caption which read "Kaimai Dentures Clinical Dental Technician", and the accompanying article stated that from November 7, he would be operating his denture and repairs clinic from his new premises in Parton Road.

The performing a restricted activity charges relate to him also making and fitting dentures for 29 patients between February and November 2011, while not registered to do so.

Aspinall is a qualified dental technician and can perform laboratory work but his annual practising certificate expired on March 31, 2003.

In March, last year, the Dental Council considered Aspinall's application for restoration to the Dental Register but deferred the application until it received further information.

On November 21, a Ministry investigator executed a search warrant at his new business premises and seized patient record cards, an appointment book and at least four sets of dentures.

Aspinall estimated he had carried out clinical work on about 70 patients.

Lawyer Karen Grau told Judge Russell Callander that Aspinall had also been previously warned by the Dental Council to desist performing clinical work until his registration was restored but he carried on regardless.

She said this case involved a significant breach of trust and warranted a deterrent fine.

Aspinall's lawyer Steve Scott argued the ministry had pitched the fine too high and the offences as "entirely technical breaches".

All the people contacted by the ministry were extremely complimentary about the work Aspinall provided and the real tragedy was his "unlawful gain" amounted to only about $7000, he said.

Judge Callander said he agreed that there was marked difference between a case like this and prosecutions involving "quacks" who profess to have qualifications that they do not.

To date, Aspinall remains unregistered to perform clinical work but he has since employed a qualified and registered clinical dental technician who works in his practice.

Aspinall told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he deeply regretted his offending.

"Despite the Ministry's concerns, no one was ever at risk at anytime as I am a fully qualified dental technician and have been since 1983 but I just don't have the necessary registration papers.

"I have admitted my guilt and have stood up and accepted responsibility. Since November, I have employed a registered clinical dental technician, so we are a quite legal business. I do all the lab work, he does all the clinical work and we are are both working within the relevant legislation. So everything is above board and legal, and I've gone to great lengths to ensure it is."

Aspinall said he would continue to seek registration.

The Health Ministry's chief dental officer, Robyn Haisman-Welsh, said this sentencing sends a message that it was a serious matter to provide dental services without a practising certificate.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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