Vet's registration suspended for six months over professional misconduct

Patrick O’Halloran created impression farmer’s animals complied with quality assurance

Patrick O’Halloran supplied false information creating the impression a farmer’s animals complied with An Bord Bia’s beef and lamb quality assurance scheme

Patrick O’Halloran supplied false information creating the impression a farmer’s animals complied with An Bord Bia’s beef and lamb quality assurance scheme

 

A vet who supplied false information creating the impression a farmer’s animals complied with An Bord Bia’s beef and lamb quality assurance scheme has had his registration suspended for six months by the High Court.

Patrick O’Halloran, who qualified as a vet in 1977 and practices at Kingscourt Veterinary Practice, Co Cavan, had admitted five allegations amounting to professional misconduct at a hearing of the fitness to practice committee of the Veterinary Council of Ireland following an investigation by Department of Agriculture officials.

As a result, the Council applied to the High Court this week for a suspension order. The application was not opposed by Mr O’Halloran and High Court president, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said the six month suspension was “entirely appropriate” having regard to the misconduct.

After counsel for Mr O’Halloran said the vet was not of significant means and would be unable to earn an income while suspended, the judge put a stay on a costs order against Mr O’Halloran for nine months.

The application arose after a spot audit under An Bord Bia’s beef and lamb Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) was carried out on the farm of a father and son, Frank and Philip Fitzpatrick, of St Ernan’s Hill, Kingscourt, on November 15th, 2013.

Membership of the scheme adds about €40-50 per head to the market value of an animal and a farmer must show their herd is treated appropriately where animal remedies are concerned. An Bord Bia’s concerns include that animals sold for human consumption do not contain any residues of animal remedies.

During the audit, Philip Fitzpatrick said no vet had visited them and no animal remedies had been used on their animals for a number of years and their vet would verify this.

Certification committee

A certification committee for the scheme reviewed the audit and considered the assertion of no use of animal remedies was strange as more than 2,000 animals were slaughtered from the farm annually.

The committee withheld its decision on certification pending a statement from the vet verifying no animal remedies were used.

Mr O’Halloran had provided a letter addressed to Frank Fitzpatrick dated January 9th, 2014, stating no remedies were supplied by “this practice”, referring to Kingscourt Veterinary Centre, to the farmer in the last five years and no sick animals were visited during that period.

On that basis, certification continued but An Bord Bia’s director of quality assurance had contacted the Department of Agriculture in the interim. After an investigation, the Department later said it had found prescription remedies on the farm and had established Mr O’Halloran had prescribed those remedies.

The VCI’s fitness to practice committee held an inquiry in 2019 into allegations of professional misconduct against Mr O’Halloran.

The allegations were that, on dates between July 2012 and April 2014, he facilitated the sale or supply of one or more animal remedies without a prescription in contravention of EC Animal Remedies regulation, failed to ensure a label was affixed to one or more animal remedies and failed to keep a record of purchases and sales.

Mr O’Halloran accepted those allegations taken together amounted to professional misconduct in that they amounted to a serious falling short of the standard expected of a registered vet.

He admitted misconduct concerning a further allegation of knowingly providing false information around January 9th, 2014, to falsely create the impression the animals had not been treated by a vet so as to create the impression of compliance with the QAS.

The Committee found his conduct concerning that allegation involved fraud or dishonesty of a nature or degree bearing on the carrying on of the profession of a registered vet.

It recommended his registration be suspended for nine months but the Council, having considered the Committee’s report and mitigating factors including the vet’s otherwise unblemished record in his long career, directed the suspension should be six months.