Penalties for people who fraudulently claim to be dentists or other health practitioners will, from today, include bigger fines and possible prison terms, all designed to bolster the protections offered to the public under the National Law.
Under the National Law, which regulates the practice of 15 health disciplines, anyone using what is termed a “protected title” such as dentist, chiropractor or psychologist must be registered with the corresponding National Board and cannot claim to be a practitioner in any of the health fields covered by AHPRA without appropriate qualifications or registration.
Should they do so and present themselves to the public as a practitioner in a field for which they are neither qualified nor registered in a process known as “holding out”, the dangers posed to the public are considerable.
One example of this misrepresentation is a fake dentist whose case is profiled in a The Sydney Morning Herald article (“Fake doctors to face jail time under tough new penalties”) on the new measures which graphically illustrates how practising under false pretense poses a real risk to public health and safety.
“Unlicensed backyard dentist, Muhammet Velipasaoglu, was also caught after treating hundreds of dental patients from a Melbourne garage until 2015.
“The Turkish immigrant avoided a jail sentence after pleading guilty to a spate of charges including carrying out restricted dental acts. One woman who had undergone nine consecutive root canals in Velipasaoglu’s garage clinic had suffered greatly following the procedures and was unable to sleep or eat after the surgery.”
While the law governing registration of everyone from dentists to doctors to nurses and physiotherapists have always been tough on those pretending to be qualified as a health practitioner (more than 50 plus prosecutions have taken place since 2014), the new measures, says AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher, takes these sanctions even further, all with one specific purpose in mind.
“All health ministers recognise that penalties need to be tougher for serious cases. When someone pretends to be a registered health practitioner, they pose a significant risk to the public.”
The amendments carry with them the possibility of a maximum term of three years in prison for each offence, with the maximum fines increasing from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for corporate entities.
The public are being encouraged to double-check the registered status of a dentist or health practitioner from whom they intend to seek treatment so they can rest assured that they are both qualified and meet the requisite national standards.
For more on these new penalties, please visit the AHPRA website