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A fund that lets you choose your provider, the level of cover that suits you, and supports the medical community as a whole.
At Avant we recognise that your practice entity has separate risks and exposures.
At Avant we aim to make this process as straightforward as we can for you. However we
recognise that it can be extremely confronting to receive a complaint, and you
should not underestimate how stressful this can be for you and your family,
particularly if the complaint proceeds to an investigation.
manager and lawyer are available to answer any questions you might have about
your matter or the process involved.
Disciplinary matters are
time-consuming and can take months or even years to resolve. It is critical that
you look after yourself, and your family, through the process of dealing with a
claim. Our section on “Dealing with the stress of a claim or complaint” provides
tips on how to look after yourself during this process.
Contact the Avant Medico-legal Advisory Service for further advice. You can also contact Avant’s
Personal Support Program for confidential counselling.
“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K, for
he knew he had done nothing wrong, but one morning he was arrested.”
opening line above, one of the best in my view, is from Kafka’s famous novel 'The
Trial' in which a man is prosecuted for a crime unknown to him by a distant
authority. It resonates strongly for me because I too have had a similar
On Christmas Eve I received an e-mail from ‘the
Commission’ sent to my lawyer titled ‘Another complaint’ – as if a random second
complaint had arrived, along with the usual preamble of ‘have a great holiday’
I was somewhat prepared for this message as I had previously
received a request for notes from the lawyer acting for the two patients.
I read the complaints, one made eleven months after the procedure I had
performed and one two-and-a-half years after. The words ‘third world practice’
stood out to me in the complaint, comments apparently made by the specialist the
two patients had since seen.
I was, in fact, born in the third world.
However, I went to school in a developed country and I attended medical school
in London. I also did my postgraduate training in the United Kingdom. I
certainly felt a theme of xenophobia in the complaints, which included ‘the
doctor should not be practising in Australia’.
I had no idea what to
expect, and, until a few days prior to the meeting with the Medical Board, I had
no idea what the basis of the patients’ concerns were. It transpired that the
Medical Board was concerned the procedures had been performed in a small country
The meeting with the Medical Board (while somewhat
nerve racking) was pretty straightforward. I explained the private hospital was
well staffed, had a high dependency unit and performed major surgery regularly.
I was questioned at length about the clinical management of both cases. I
answered with simple facts, relaying findings, investigations and treatments.
Some questions seemed a bit left field but I answered them politely.
eventual findings were that my management of these two cases was competent and
diligent. The whole process took eighteen months and I spent many hours pouring
over patient notes feeling under attack during that time.
recipient of a complaint, while rare (two complaints in five years), is
distressing. In retrospect, and considering the outcome, I probably wasted a lot
of emotional energy.
However, it is hard not to dwell on complaints,
especially when you know you have done your best. Thankfully I continue to run a
successful practice with a very low complication rate. I keep good notes, have
regular surgical audits, and keep evidence of the informed consent process.
When I reflect back on the eighteen months, it was the lack of information
from the Medical Board that caused the most stress. My advice to other doctors
would be to try and find out early what the concerns are and address them.
Remember, complications do occur and in our current medico-legal environment
these can result in a complaint. Josef K had done nothing wrong and the
likelihood is neither have you.
1. Franz Kafka, The Trial. Berlin. Die
This member story is the work of the author and does not
necessarily represent the views or opinions of Avant Mutual Group Limited and