Charged doctors at work

By Joanne Carroll

GPs return to practice despite misconduct charges being proven.

Dr Gopalrao Chebbi requires a chaperone when seeing female patients after misconduct charges were upheld. Photo Michael Craig
Dr Gopalrao Chebbi requires a chaperone when seeing female patients after misconduct charges were upheld. Photo Michael Craig

A doctor who has been working under strict conditions after misconduct charges were upheld against him is back before a health disciplinary body.

Auckland's Dr Gopalrao Chebbi has been working at an Onehunga medical centre under conditions imposed by the Medical Council of New Zealand in July, 2011.

This week the council's online register showed he had no such conditions.

However, when the Herald on Sunday made enquiries the council confirmed he had four conditions imposed on his practising certificate.

He must have a chaperone present when seeing female patients for any "intimate examination", including any practice involving the chest, abdomen, back or thighs.

Chebbi must also notify any prospective employers and patients about his need for a chaperone, and must have his future employment approved by the council.

Chebbi, who graduated in India, was first registered in New Zealand in 1997 and now lives in Epsom. This week his lawyer, Harry Waalkens QC, said the doctor was not in any position to make a comment.

Details of the latest allegations have not been disclosed. However, a charge was laid before the tribunal in September last year and Chebbi will appear before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in March, accused of working outside the scope of his certificate.

Onehunga's Langimalie Health Centre practice manager Viliami Toafa said he was unaware of the tribunal hearing, although Chebbi was a regular locum at the centre and notified the practice of his conditions before he began working there.

He had always been chaperoned and a sign was displayed for patients to be aware of the need for a chaperone, he said.

Last year, the Herald on Sunday revealed at least 10 doctors who have had serious misconduct charges upheld against them are back at work - in many cases without their patients knowing their background.

The Medical Council has revealed six doctors are working with conditions on their licences, but this newspaper found another eight who are working without conditions despite having sexual misconduct charges or criminal convictions.

The investigation prompted calls for a ministerial inquiry.

It is difficult to find information on doctors who have been found guilty of misconduct. The Medical Council website includes a register of doctors which can be searched by the doctor's name, and includes whether they have conditions on their certificates.

However, it does not give reasons why the conditions were imposed or why some doctors later had their conditions removed.

This week, a computer glitch meant Chebbi's conditions were not listed on the site.

Spokesman George Symmes said the council was "working on a fix".

"In the meantime, if anyone would like to know about a doctor or conditions on a doctor's practice they can call us on 0800 286 801.

"This message is on our website homepage," he said.

- Herald on Sunday

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