A Hamilton dental hygienist and therapist who failed to renew her practising certificate because she went into labour the day the application was due has been found guilty of treating patients without one.
The New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found Brooke Wiggins guilty of misconduct for practising without a current practicing certificate between May and October 2016.
She was fined $500 and ordered to pay $10,000 in costs.
While Wiggins claimed the lapse was not intentional and she renewed the certificate as soon as she became aware of it, the council determined practising without one was still a serious breach.
Wiggins treated more than 100 patients at the Tooth Group in Peachgrove Rd in Hamilton for five months before realising her practicing certificate had expired.
Wiggins had thought she had renewed her certificate before it expired on 1 April 2016 and it was not until she was contacted by the Dental Council in mid-October 2016 by email that she realised the renewal forms had not been sent.
At the time it was due, Wiggins was 8 months pregnant and had not followed it up with the practice manager.
She went on maternity leave and returned to work at the end of May with a lighter case load than usual. By the time the breach was brought to her attention by the Dental Council in mid-October she had seen 116 patients.
On learning of the oversight, Wiggins immediately responded to the council that she was practising and asked what she could do as she was "shocked" to learn it had not been renewed.
"I have found the forms that were left aside for the practice manager to email off which was the day I was admitted to hospital. This was absolutely not intentional and I had no idea that I was practising unlawfully."
Wiggins claimed she had not seen any of the emails or letters reminding her from the Dental Council. While the tribunal agreed some of the reminders had gone to an invalid email address, it found at least two letters had gone to the dental clinic's postal address which she should have seen.
In making its decision, the tribunal acknowledged Wiggins had been hospitalised during her pregnancy which would have made it difficult to ensure her application had been sent and that it was "not the most serious case of a practitioner failing to maintain her practising certificate".
However, it ruled practising without a valid practising certificate is a serious breach of professional responsibilities and one of the key ways that the legislation sets out to ensure the public was protected.