Waikato DHB won't rule out using agency who found fake psychiatrist

Waikato District Health Board chief executive Nigel Murray says international staff are fundamental to the DHB.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ.

Waikato District Health Board chief executive Nigel Murray says international staff are fundamental to the DHB.

The agency that recruited a fake psychiatrist is still on the Waikato DHB's payroll.

Chief executive Nigel Murray said it can't be helped: international recruits are far too important to the district health board. 

An 18-month court saga ended last week after Mohamed Shakeel Siddiqui pleaded guilty to deception and forgery charges after pretending to be a psychiatrist.

Mohamed Siddiqui pleaded guilty to charges of deception and forgery after pretending to be a psychiatrist.
Rebekah Parsons-King/Fairfax NZ

Mohamed Siddiqui pleaded guilty to charges of deception and forgery after pretending to be a psychiatrist.

The Waikato DHB, the recruitment agency IMR (International Medical Recruitment) and the Medical Council of New Zealand all failed to properly check Siddiqui's references and credentials and he was able to practise as a psychiatrist for six months.

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And although the Waikato DHB will not rule out using IMR again, some DHBs have stopped using the agency. 

General manager of corporate services for the Bay of Plenty DHB, Letham White, said in a statement that it last used IMR in 2013.

"We do not use them now. We prefer to recruit directly, using various recruitment tools. On the rare occasion we use an agency, we have a group of highly regarded national and international agencies we contact."

Waitemata DHB also confirmed it does not use IMR; however, it did not elaborate on why that was so. 

More than 700 international staff are on the payroll at Waikato DHB - about one in 10 staff. They were scouted by the 50 recruitment agencies the DHB uses.

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Murray said Waikato hires more international staff than any other DHB, even though the preference is always for New Zealanders.

"We have been working with IMR for over a decade. They have provided a good service ... they've helped the Waikato region bring in doctors from around the globe which we're grateful for. 

"We have 1100 doctors coming in [to the country] every year and they all do a great job. And for one bad apple like this one [Siddiqui], it shouldn't cast aspersions on all international medical graduates. 

"We will be reviewing this incident with this doctor who's declared guilty. There are certainly some questions to be asked and we will be getting those now that the court case is over."

A Ministry of Health spokesman said district health boards decide which recruitment agencies to use and there is no directive from the ministry.

Waikato DHB chairman Bob Simcock said it's not the board's job to decide which agencies are used.

"That's management's job, but we have certainly asked questions and we expect them to get it right," Simcock said.

"If there are any issues of concern [arising from this incident], then I expect to be told about it. But, fundamentally, that's management's job."

Murray said the DHB was "scammed on this issue".

He said "systems" picked up the scam, but went on to explain that it was Siddiqui's supervisor who dobbed him in as a fraud.

"DHBs will act accordingly when there's something that's not right," Murray said.

"This was a sophisticated scam. I take exception to the comment that this wasn't and I've reviewed this information and the medical council have done the same review and come up with the same finding.

"Let's be clear - we don't fully rely on recruitment agencies. We cross check it, the medical council cross checks it and he passed through all the checks until he turned up for work and was found to be incompetent. 

"This is not the way that we practise in the Waikato. There are no excuses for it. As a consequence, a man's been found guilty of very serious crimes and it's a lesson that this type of scam is becoming more and more a risk."

IMR was repeatedly contacted for comment, but all calls and emails were unreturned. 

 - Stuff

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