Former Otago rugby team physio censured, fined over conduct

Dunedin physiotherapist Ashley Stiven has been censured and fined for incorrectly billing ACC, treating a family member, and himself being treated by his own employees.

Stiven, the former Otago rugby team physiotherapist who was with them for 12 years, will also only be allowed to practise his profession in the next 12 months under independent professional supervision, a newly released decision by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal said.

"He is a senior member of the physiotherapy profession and the practice leader in his Sportsmed business," the decision said.

"He is expected to know the core requirements of ACC and treatment obligations for family members and by his employees and is expected to maintain sound clinical notes."

ACC does not permit treatment of family members except in emergency or other exceptional circumstances.

Stiven had co-operated with the Tribunal but his conduct, while less serious than other cases, was deemed sufficiently serious to warrant censure, a $2500 fine, supervision, and costs of $30,922 — 30% of the tribunal’s costs.

Stiven claimed ACC payments totalling $519 for treatment of his family member; he also claimed $1858 for 52 treatments on himself by employees of his firm.

He also failed to keep adequate records of a patient he treated for most of 2015.

Stiven admitted the charges in their entirety.

"ACC raised a debt of $13,890 against Sportsmed that related to various inappropriate ACC claims by Sportsmed staff, including Mr Stiven," the decision said.

"Mr Stiven has repaid this amount in full."

However, Stiven’s treatment of a family member and being treated by his staff was "deliberate and repetitive conduct" which happened for more than two years and needed sanction, the tribunal said.

"Mr Stiven as the lead provider at Sportsmed had a greater obligation than other employees to ensure that he modelled strong professional standards within his practice and not place other practitioner employees at risk of their own ethical obligations."

Stiven had a lengthy, previously unblemished record, strong references from the community, and had been proactive in dealing with ACC’s concerns, factors which the Tribunal said weighed in his favour when considering its penalty.

As well as fining Stiven, the Tribunal issued a wider caution to the physiotherapy profession that this was the third case concerning ACC billing it had dealt with in two years.

"These cases must serve as a caution to the profession that the misuse of ACC treatment provider status is serious," it said.

"It is a privilege extended to members of the health profession to operate as providers through ACC-funded health services.

"This system relies, in large part, on the honesty and integrity of health professionals who bill services to ACC."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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