1492504347773 - Christchurch doctor suspended for falsely claiming ACC money

Christchurch doctor suspended for falsely claiming ACC money

A Christchurch doctor used confidential hospital information to claim thousands of dollars in compensation for patients he never treated.

Dr Preechapon Tovaranonte was suspended after he copied patient information from a Christchurch Hospital database onto a USB stick while employed as a medical registrar. 

He used the stolen information to bill over $30,000 in false ACC claims from sports injuries he said he treated in a “mobile clinic” operated from his home.

It was the latest in a string of false claims and misused resources during his employment with the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).

READ MORE: * Injured worker left in agony after being denied ACC funding for finishing his shift * Health care: Out of reach – declined for surgery by both ACC and the health board * Radiation victim calls ACC ‘scumbags’ as compensation saga drags on * Rugby injuries most expensive on record for ACC

The doctor, who graduated three years earlier, filed claims for 253 services to patients over 14 months. The CDHB had no record of Tovaranonte’s involvement in 40 per cent of the consultations, including some dating back to 2010.

The lies were unravelled in a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal document released on Tuesday, with Tovaranonte admitting the invoicing was “inappropriate”. He said the mistake was based on ignorance, not criminal intent.

In a letter to the CDHB, he claimed to have exaggerated the number of patients to “make [himself] appear more professional”. Tovaranonte was issued a formal warning, repaid $21,559.75 that he had “invalidly claimed” and returned to operating his clinic.

Tovaranonte then attended the Christchurch Marathon and provided treatment to marathon runners in a tent set up by another healthcare provider, Sportsmed.

Despite not being hired for the work, and using Sportsmed supplies, he sought compensation for the treatment of eight marathon runners, including at least one he did not attend to and many who were charged extortionate fees for a band aid, or wound dressing.

In 2014, Tovaranonte was hired as a senior registrar at Christchurch Hospital and worked in the publicly-funded Rapid Response Clinic established after the earthquake.

He used hospital resources on patients in the private system for blood tests, urine tests and X-rays which he later invoiced patients for, along with a $200 charge for his time.

He received the money in addition to a CDHB wage, and neglected to see public patients.

When staff noticed irregularities in the clinic, he refused to admit any wrongdoing and said the private cases were legitimate Rapid Response Clinic patients. 

The tribunal found Tovaranonte’s conduct “fell well short of the standards of conduct expected of competent, ethical and responsible practitioners”.

Tovaranonte was suspended for three months, fined $5000 and ordered to pay $50,000 in costs. When he returned to work he would have to be supervised and work in certain practices.

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