Patient says GP's scam cost her double fees

By Martin Johnston

Were you a patient of Dr Suresh Kumar Vatsyayann?
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Dr Vatsyayann, seen here with constant companion Didi Angel, is known as the 'free GP'. Photo / Supplied
Dr Vatsyayann, seen here with constant companion Didi Angel, is known as the 'free GP'. Photo / Supplied

A woman falsely signed up by a doctor trying to gain extra state funding has said his actions obstructed her medical care and resulted in her paying higher fees.

Dr Suresh Kumar Vatsyayann, of Hamilton, was this week found guilty of professional misconduct after enrolling more than 40 patients without their knowledge from 2005 to 2007.

They included four dead people.

One of the patients, Karren O'Reilly, told the Herald yesterday she paid higher medical fees as a result.

"I had to wait an extra six months and pay the additional because when you are not in a primary health organisation you pay full price."

Ms O'Reilly said she had to pay $52 to see her doctor, rather than the state subsidised rate of $26, because Dr Vatsyayann's unauthorised claiming with her name interfered with her enrolment at her own clinic.

She knew nothing of the use of her name by his Family Clinic, 1km from her home, until a Health Ministry investigator phoned her.

"I think he might have just picked my name out of a hat. I have no idea how he got hold of my details. I appeared at [the tribunal hearing]. That was the first time I had ever seen the man."

The tribunal said the Waikato DHB had recovered about $150,000 from a possible $350,000 paid for patients who should not have been enrolled because there were no signed enrolment forms.

Dr Vatsyayann was also found to have permitted his wife, who was not qualified and not registered as a health practitioner, to take cervical smears, and give injections to adults and children.

Dr Vatsyayann is known as the "free GP" because he treated patients without charge. His membership of the DHB was suspended after he accused it of racism; he failed to win re-election last October.

Although initially irked, Ms O'Reilly said she was not now angry with Dr Vatsyayann.

"He was very, very caring for his patients. His patients thought the world of him. He went over and above what most GPs would do.

"When you think about that and you think it's a free clinic - I'm not excusing him at all, or his wife - the people who went to him are people who couldn't afford a doctor, and doctors are expensive. They got really good care from him."

Dr Vatsyayann denies the charges, on which he will be sentenced at a tribunal hearing this month.

- NZ Herald

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