Medical Council took no steps to check struck off doctor’s story, court told

Dr Aaamir Iqbal Malik had employment terminated by Kerry and Cavan hospitals

The Medical Council has told the High Court it took no steps to check whether a hospital doctor, who was struck off the UK medical register for dishonesty in his practice, was telling the truth when he said there had been no problem with his work here.

That assertion by Dr Aaamir Iqbal Malik to the council in May 2018 was a "complete lie" because his employment at Kerry University Hospital had been terminated the previous month and his employment at Cavan general hospital was terminated in October 2017 arising from incidents there, High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly said.

The judge welcomed that the council is taking steps to ensure no repeat of such a situation, including by proposing guidelines for employers and clinical directors aimed at ensuring it is promptly informed of fitness to practice issues.

Last month, he granted an application by the council to suspend Dr Malik from the medical register pending further steps under the Medical Practitioners Act. Such applications are normally heard in private because they concern unproven allegation but the judge directed it be heard in public to protect the public.

The judge also asked the council to set out what steps it had taken to check Dr Malik’s assertion in May 2018 he had been working here for a year then without any problem. Dr Malik made that assertion when the council was considering whether to apply to the court to suspend him pending an inquiry arising from the March 2018 findings against him in the UK.

He was struck off the medical register there for professional misconduct based on findings of dishonesty in how he conducted his practice as a doctor there. An inquiry found, while working at a hospital as a specialist register in obstetrics/gynaecology, he falsified records concerning his dealings with a woman, who was 41 weeks pregnant and whose baby was delivered stillborn, to suggest he had recommended she be reviewed at more regular intervals.

It also found he failed to meet a requirement to show to any prospective employer an exclusion letter, setting out those findings. No finding of misconduct was made concerning allegations about his clinical practice and the strike off was made on the basis his fitness to practice was impaired as result of the dishonesty findings.

Dr Malik was employed at the Kerry hospital from October 2017 to April 2018 when his employment was terminated due to two alleged failures by him to answer calls to attend to urgent deliveries of infants in distress.

A review group headed by Dr Peter Boylan had also interviewed the doctor in October 2017 concerning an incident involving one of his patients at Cavan General Hospital.

When the matter returned before Mr Justice Kelly on Monday, he granted an application by Eileen Barrington SC, for the council, to extend the suspension of Dr Malik, with an address at Staincliffe, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He was not in court and was not represented.

In affidavits, council president Dr Rita Doyle said the council had taken no steps to check the veracity of Dr Malik's May 2018 assertion of no problems with his work here. His assertion was not the deciding factor in the council not applying to the court in May 2018, she said.

Its decision was made on all the evidence put before it, including the doctor’s submissions of having completed remediation. It was also reasonable for the council to assume, if there were issues with his employment here, those would have been referred to the council but neither Irish hospital had referred their termination of his employment at the time it occurred.

The council’s decision was also on foot of findings by the UK regulator the clinical failings of the doctor were single negligent acts which did not amount to serious misconduct, she said. When the council was later made aware of the issues at the Irish hospitals, it was very concerned and that lead to the application last month to suspend the doctor. Both hospitals have been asked to inform the council why these serious matters had not been referred to it earlier, she said.

Mr Justice Kelly said this unfortunately was not the first time he had made directions under the Act in addressing defects in how doctors are being dealt with. It seemed to him any regulator, when considering a doctor who is found guilty of dishonesty in another jurisdiction, should look at any information offered by that doctor with “resolute scepticism” but no inquiry was made here.

He noted the council shares the court’s concerns such a situation should not be repeated and it has made various proposals, including writing to the Minister for Health, the chief executive of the HSE and the private hospitals association to highlight there should be no delay in referring fitness to practise issues to the council.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times