15 Mar 2017

Questions linger over fake psychiatrist

8:48 am on 15 March 2017

The father of a mental health patient who died is asking how a fake psychiatrist was able to treat patients for six months before he was stopped.

Waikato Hospital

Mohamed Siddiqui worked at Waikato DHB as a psychiatrist for months. Photo: Supplied / Waikato DHB / Facebook

Mohamed Siddiqui has admitted using false qualifications to work as a psychiatrist in 2015.

He pleaded guilty in Hamilton District Court yesterday to four charges, including using forged documents, obtaining a licence by deception, and receiving a salary and expenses while working as a psychiatrist for Waikato District Health Board.

DHB member Dave Macpherson, whose son Nicky Stevens died while under the care of the DHB's mental health services, said it was worrying Siddiqui was a member of a mental health crisis team seeing people in vulnerable and dangerous situations.

"Some of those crisis situations are literally life and death and you need someone that's well-trained and genuinely trained to be able to sort out what's happening, and [do so] very quickly.

"So if I was someone that had a child treated while Siddiqui was claiming to be practicing there I'd be very worried."

In a statement, the DHB said staff had reviewed the cases of Siddiqui's patients and informed them he was not a psychiatrist.

"Whilst patients were clearly upset and concerned that they had been seen by someone who did not have a specialist psychiatric qualification, all patients contacted were thankful for our follow up and we did not identify any situations in which inappropriate or dangerous treatments were initiated."

Mr Macpherson said Siddiqui was the second person in the last few years to evade the DHB's vetting systems.

Nicky Stevens was treated by an American psychiatrist, Paul Fox, who was employed by the DHB despite having a complaint laid against him in the US.

The DHB said it undertook reasonable background checks on Dr Fox.

But Mr Macpherson said he still worried a similar situation could arise again - and Siddiqui should have been picked up sooner.

"I checked myself that Mohamed Siddiqui - the one and only psychiatrist in the United States, where this guy came from, and where he got his degree, and it was an entirely different photo - so how hard was that to check if I could check on the internet?"

The DHB said the Health Ministry audited its recruitment processes after Siddiqui was detected and found them to be consistent with industry standards.

It had also taken steps to minimise the risk of a recurrence.

"We have adjusted our training and protocols around reference checking, educated managers around the risk of identity theft, and put in place privacy waivers to assist with credential checking," the DHB statement said.

One of the charges Siddiqui pleaded guilty to was obtaining a provisional vocational Medical Council licence by deception.

Medical Council chief executive Philip Pigou said Siddiqui used the credentials of another Dr Siddiqui to thwart their vetting system.

"Dr Siddiqui was able to get through the system by actually producing an original qualification from the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry in his name although admittedly it was in fact another doctor. And so because the other information matched up at that time he was granted registration."

Philip Pigou admitted it was concerning Siddiqui was able to treat patients.

But he said Siddiqui's supervisor at the DHB, who is an agent for the Medical Council, was able to raise the alarm.

"The supervisor picked up, I think after about four or five months, that there was some question around Dr Siddiqui's capability, competence and performance and that's when after further checks that we were able to identify that there was actually a problem with Dr Siddiqui's qualification and who he was presenting as."

The Medical Council said it was introducing a new system where qualifications are verified by the body that issued them.

Siddiqui, whom the Medical Council says is a qualified medical doctor, has been remanded in custody for sentencing next month.