The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has released its decisions regarding the charge brought by a professional conduct committee (PCC) against physiotherapists Tahna Kim Pearce and Allan David Pearce, a married couple who agreed their charges could be heard together.
The charges related to payments claimed from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for treatments provided to each other and to other family members between December 2014 and January 2017.
The total financial benefit to Mr Pearce of these treatments was $8,915.16 and the total financial benefit to Mrs Pearce was $18,358.27. The Physiotherapists admitted the charges and that their conduct amounted to professional misconduct. All incorrectly claimed money was repaid to ACC prior to the Tribunal hearing.
The Tribunal found:
- There was no justification or exceptional circumstances in the Physiotherapists’ treating of family members, which was in contravention of ACC’s funding policy.
- The Physiotherapists did not maintain appropriate professional boundaries when treating family members.
- The Physiotherapists did not provide explicit advice to family members as part of the informed consent process on the issues associated with the treatment of family members.
- The Physiotherapists did not seek independent verification of their assessments, diagnosis and management plans or make a referral to the patient’s GP or to a specialist for verification. Neither considered an alternative provider to take over the management of their family members’ conditions.
The Tribunal was satisfied that each of the particulars of the charges was established, both separately and cumulatively. The conduct of the Physiotherapists amounted to professional misconduct.
The Tribunal censured both Physiotherapists, fined them $3,500 each, and ordered that Mr Pearce must practice under the supervision of a Board approved supervisor at his own cost for nine months and undertake an education course within three months.
Mrs Pearce is not currently practising as a physiotherapist. The Tribunal ordered that if she recommences practice she must practise under the supervision of a Board approved supervisor at her own cost for nine months and undertake an education course within three months.
Both Physiotherapists were ordered to pay 35% of the cost of investigating, prosecuting, and hearing their individual charge.
Contrary to media reports about the case, neither physiotherapist received permanent name suppression.
The Board’s Standard on treatment of whānau, family members and others close to you can be read here.
The Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct outlines requirements for Physiotherapists to act with honesty and integrity in all areas of professional practice including in their relationship with funders and insurers. You can read the Code here.
The full combined decision for Tahna Kim Pearce and Allan David Pearce can be read here.