Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Dentist admits faking his notes

Aucklander claimed $50,000 of taxpayer money for made-up appointments and tooth extractions.

Dentist Sanjay Govind Sathe leaves the Manukau District Court. Photo / NZ Herald
Dentist Sanjay Govind Sathe leaves the Manukau District Court. Photo / NZ Herald

A dentist has admitted doctoring patient notes to rip off almost $50,000 of taxpayers' money.

Sanjay Govind Sathe appeared in the Manukau District Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to 18 criminal charges of false accounting and dishonest use of a document.

A Ministry of Health investigation found claims for emergency treatment of children and teenagers - including extraction of teeth - that did not occur.

Court documents show the total amount he fraudulently obtained was $49,274, which he has repaid. Sathe paid a further $45,000 in civil liabilities, including investigation.

The Herald revealed in June that the Auckland dentist altered his clinical notes between 2007 and last year to falsely claim taxpayer-funded payments for patients aged under 18.

He was contracted to the Counties Manukau District Health Board to provide after-hours emergency treatment for children and teenagers.

The free scheme contracts 734 dental providers throughout New Zealand. They treated about 188,000 adolescents last year at a cost of $42 million.

Under the agreement, the 59-year-old Sathe would provide treatment, then submit invoices to claim tax-funded payments. The national average for "emergency consultation" was between 29 and 38 annually. Sathe made between 352 and 679 claims each year - the most of any dentist in the country. He also made claims for a large number of tooth extractions under anaesthetic after 5pm.

A Ministry of Health audit in 2009 found that Sathe had been overpaid by nearly $30,000, which he repaid.

But the audit did not detect the wider fraud he was charged with.

The alarm was raised last year when a former patient of Sathe was treated by a new dentist who noticed the number of teeth extracted was fewer than the number stated in the clinical notes.

Ministry of Health investigators then contacted at least 100 parents whose children's clinical notes showed five or more tooth extractions. Many denied taking their children to Sathe for emergency consultations after working hours, or having teeth removed.

Some of the children were overseas or no longer living in Auckland at the time of the claimed treatment.

Hundreds of treatment reports recorded false consultation times or details.

Sathe has since sold his practice in Howick. The case is only the third of its kind in New Zealand.

Sanjay Govind Sathe

* 59-year-old Auckland dentist
* Pleaded guilty to 10 counts of dishonest use of a document and eight counts of false accounting
* Paid $49,274 in reparation to Counties Manukau DHB for the criminal matters
* Paid a further $45,000 in civil costs, including investigation bill
* Has previously repaid $29,455 after a 2009 audit
TOTAL: $123,729.

- NZ Herald

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