Struck-off doctor wins reprieve

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2012
GP Suresh Vatsyayann
PETER DRURY/Waikato Times
PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT: GP Suresh Vatsyayann.

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A controversial Hamilton GP struck off the medical registry could practise again after a judge ruled that his penalty be re-assessed.

It's news to supporters, who believed the penalty was too harsh for the doctor who set up the city's free clinic.

Dr Suresh Vatsyayann was struck off by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in May last year for enrolling patients without their consent, breaching patient privacy and allowing his unqualified wife to perform procedures such as smear tests and vaccinations. He was also ordered to pay $256,000 in costs.

However, in March Dr Vatsyayann appealed his removal to the High Court in Hamilton.

At the time, his lawyer, Alex Hope, argued that his client was not given the opportunity to put forward mitigating factors during the penalty hearing because of other circumstances, including his health and an overlap with other tribunal proceedings he was involved with.

Justice John Priestly reserved his decision, but the Waikato Times understands he has since delivered a written decision ordering the tribunal to reassess the penalty.

The court would not release the decision to the Times, saying there had been some opposition to it being released to the media. An application for the Times to view the decision has been set down for a hearing before the court.

However, a leaked copy – provided to NZ Doctor – shows Justice Priestly had "considerable unease" about the tribunal's penalty because Dr Vatsyayann did not have the opportunity to present any mitigating factors to the tribunal.

NZ Doctor this week quoted Justice Priestly as saying Dr Vatsyayann should have the opportunity of having the penalty re-assessed.

It's understood a further hearing is to be held in July, in which Dr Vatsyayann can put forward any mitigating factors – including his professional history, his financial situation at the time of the hearing last April or any testimonials from patients.

Any decision on the reversal of Dr Vatsyayann's deregistration won't take place until then.

Dr Vatsyayann was not contactable yesterday, but his wife Subhash told the Times it was good news.

Colleague and supporter Dr Leo Revell said he was pleased Dr Vatsyayann might get the opportunity to practise again.

"It's a fair decision. The issue, the judge said, is that if a doctor errs, or isn't on the right path, what the aim of the tribunal should be is to rehabilitate him and correct him," Dr Revell said.

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