Podiatrist operates outside scope of practice and professional standards

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Podiatrist operates outside scope of practice and professional standards

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Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding a podiatrist in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failing to comply with professional and ethical standards in the care of a woman requiring podiatric surgery.

The woman consulted the podiatrist for advice and treatment about a bunion deformity on her left foot. At the time of events, the podiatrist had restrictions on his practice that allowed him to perform podiatric surgery only under the supervision of a podiatric or orthopaedic surgeon, and required him to provide the Podiatrists Board of New Zealand with monthly reports of the surgery he performed.

However, the podiatrist performed a bunionectomy on the woman at his clinic without supervision. He provided the Podiatrists Board with an unsigned agreement of treatment that referred to the need for a supervisor to be present, but the agreement of treatment form signed by the woman on the day of surgery excluded the reference to the requirement for supervision. The podiatrist submitted his monthly report to the Podiatrists Board, but did not include the woman’s surgery.

Deputy Commissioner Rose Wall considered that by performing surgery without supervision and by failing to report the surgery to the Podiatrists Board, when these were both requirements of the conditions of his practice, the podiatrist failed to comply with the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, the Podiatry Standards, and the Ethical Code, and demonstrated unethical behaviour.

Ms Wall was also critical that the agreement of treatment form signed by the woman did not reference the podiatrist’s supervision requirements.

"Podiatrists practising safely and within their scope of practice and professional standards is integral to consumers having trust and confidence in their health provider," said Ms Wall. "I consider that [the podiatrist’s] conduct, specifically in performing surgery on [the woman] without supervision, was non-compliant with his professional and ethical obligations."

Ms Wall recommended that the Podiatrists Board of New Zealand consider this complaint and whether further action is warranted, and report back to HDC on the outcome of this consideration. She also recommended that the podiatrist provide a written letter of apology to the woman, which he has done.

The podiatrist has been referred to the Director of Proceedings.

The full report for case 19HDC01659 is available on the HDC website.

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