A doctor whose professional registration has been cancelled by the High Court may in time apply to have it restored once the Medical Council is satisfied by his training and competence.
President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, noted the cancellation of the registration of Dr Francis Chijioke Megwa was due to a “lack of expertise”.
Dr Megwa was a senior house officer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) four years ago. He worked there for five weeks until his employment was terminated in August 2018.
Ms Justice Irvine this week said it was not proposed that there would be any prohibition on the doctor’s right to apply for the restoration of his name on the register.
The lack of expertise, she said, “can be remedied” and is to be distinguished from a situation where cancellation is due to gross misconduct going to a doctor’s character, which is “harder to remedy”. Dr Megwa may apply at any time to have his registration restored once he satisfies the Medical Council in respect of his training and competence.
She noted the Irish Medical Council encouraged Dr Megwa to seek to remedy his deficits as soon as possible and “highlighted the fact that it had found no impropriety, dishonesty or improper conduct on his part”.
Dr Megwa was the subject of an inquiry by the Council, concerning the five weeks he worked as a non-consultant hospital doctor at UMHL, following two complaints by other healthcare staff.
Ms Justice Irvine said the allegations proven as to fact included that the doctor failed to demonstrate basic competency in relation to taking or analysing the patients’ clinical histories. He also failed to demonstrate basic competency in understanding the diagnostic significance of patterns of symptoms or physical signs and identifying a differential diagnosis.
An inquiry was held last year and the Fitness to Practise Committee found the allegations amounted to poor professional performance. The Committee recommended a number of conditions be attached to the doctor’s registration including that he complete an internship or further training under supervision.
The Committee made clear it had considered all of the aggravating factors, such as the significant shortcomings in the doctor’s knowledge and abilities, and the mitigating factors, such as the absence of a professional misconduct allegation, his lack of dishonesty and full engagement with the disciplinary process, said the judge.
Importantly, the judge said the Fitness to Practise Committee also found Dr Megwa to be an honest doctor with insight into his shortcomings which he had consistently committed to addressing.
The judge said the Medical Council formed the opinion that it would be challenging to formulate the specific type of conditions appropriate for this case that would enable the doctor to remain in practice while protecting the public.
Ms Justice Irvine said the Medical Council had concluded that the conditions proposed by the Fitness to Practise Committee were unworkable and, in effect, would amount to cancellation of the doctor’s registration as the conditions involved the possibility of him continuing to practise in an intern post, which was not possible.
The judge said she saw no good reason not to confirm the cancellation of the doctor’s registration.