Invercargill doctor guilty of misconduct

An uncertified Invercargill urologist failed to provide appropriate care to a cancer patient, a tribunal says.

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found Sajan Singh Bhatia guilty of three charges of professional misconduct.

It released its decision today after holding a two-day hearing last September.

The tribunal found Dr Bhatia failed to provide a patient, referred to as Ms N, with the appropriate standard of medical care and treatment.

Dr Bhatia had been treating Ms N for bladder cancer since 2000.

Ms N told the tribunal she visited Dr Bhatia's practice in May 2009 complaining of frequent and painful urination, which was "claret coloured".

She visited the office two days later and Dr Bhatia arranged for her to have a urine test and prescribed some antibiotics.

Dr Bhatia later arranged a sleeping pill prescription for her.

Ms N told the tribunal Dr Bhatia had suggested she had strained a muscle and could take Panadol.

However, at the end of May, Ms N was admitted to hospital and doctors found she was suffering from kidney stones.

A urologist also discovered she had a tumour on her left kidney.

When Ms N decided to make a complaint to the Medical Council, Dr Bhatia rang her at home and tried to persuade her to talk to him, Ms N said.

Another witness, Southern Cross Hospital Invercargill manager Judith Bradley, told the tribunal Dr Bhatia had failed to complete forms she had given him - part of the hospital's new credential policy.

She reminded him about the forms for over a year and he eventually supplied them but without a copy of his practising certificate.

She then informed the Medical Council as she could not find his name on the medical register. They told her Dr Bhatia did not have a practising certificate and the hospital dismissed him.

Ms Bradley told the tribunal Dr Bhatia had performed 13 operations or surgical lists at the hospital.

The tribunal found him guilty of practising medicine, between December 2008 and July 2009, without the required certification, and failing to comply with conditions the tribunal had already imposed on his practice in 2007.

Those conditions included working under supervision and attending peer review meetings.

It also determined Dr Bhatia was guilty of failing to provide Ms N with the appropriate care as he failed to arrange a treatment she requested, a bladder cancer drug called BCG, and urinary tract imaging.

However, the tribunal found Dr Bhatia had considered the possibility of a cancer recurrence as a cause of Ms N's urinary tract symptoms as he had ordered a urinary cytology test.

The tribunal noted Dr Bhatia's wife had died and it would have distracted him from his practice and the requirements of the Medical Council.

The tribunal called for submissions from the Professional Conduct Committee before deciding on the appropriate penalty.

Dr Bhatia did not attend the hearing and it is believed he now lives in South Australia.

He was fined $8500 in October last year after an Invercargill District Court judge found him guilty of practising without a certificate.

Dr Bhatia had been a urologist for more than 20 years in Invercargill and sat on the Southern District Health Board.


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