Physio censured after having sex with rugby players in her care
A physiotherapist has been censured and had her registration cancelled for a year after she had sex with two premier rugby players who were her patients.
In what was described as one of the first cases of its kind, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal ordered physio Tania Suzanne Williams to pay $10,000 in costs for the disciplinary process and ordered she be supervised when she returned to physio work.
Williams was found guilty of misconduct relating to sexual relationships she formed with two rugby players after she gained a contract to treat a team's players in a union tournament between April and October 2014.
She told the Tribunal she was an inexperienced practitioner who didn't realise that the rugby players were technically her patients.
The name of the club, the players and the tournament they played in was suppressed following the tribunal hearing, however the tribunal refused the suppression of Williams' name.
During her employment Williams formed a relationship with one player, who had injured his ankle and calf.
Between May and July the pair had sex about five times, following a meeting the pair had at her home after she told him she wanted his advice about her relationship.
The next time he went to her house she gave him food and alcohol and they had sex for the first time, the tribunal judgment said.
By July one of the club's bosses who hired Williams heard rumours she was having sex with the player, and approached them separately with his concerns that their relationship was unprofessional.
The tribunal was told Williams then began actively avoiding the player for the rest of the season, however she began communicating with another player – who was married.
The player required his shoulder and knees strapped before every game and according to the summary of facts the pair talked regularly through text messages.
Sometimes Williams called him, but hung up if his wife answered, the tribunal report said.
By October the pair started having sex, and the man's marriage ended.
When Williams' second sexual relationship with a player came to light the club and the union terminated her services and the players were left without a physio for a time because of her sudden departure.
By November 2014 the man who hired Williams, the two rugby players, and one of the players' spouses made written complaints to the Physiotherapy Board.
Initially Williams denied the relationships, but later admitted them.
According to the Tribunal: "Ms Williams' conduct in entering into sexual relationships with both patients is a clear and significant departure from acceptable professional standards."
Williams had been a physio since 2013 but had not treated any sports teams since early 2015.
She had worked at three other rugby tournaments since leaving the club, but always with a male chaperone, the tribunal said.
"The practitioner acknowledged that her behaviour had been unacceptable and that she had breached professional boundaries with both patients. Ms Williams states that at the time she was unaware of the definition of a 'patient' in a sports context and that she acted in a naive and irresponsible manner."
Williams told the tribunal that she was relatively inexperienced in her profession and didn't understand her obligations fully. She reiterated the relationships were always consensual and said she found her work isolating, and had developed close relationships with the players as a result.
"Ms Williams expressed her remorse for the hurt she had caused and in her evidence apologised to the complainants."