16 Jan 2017

Sexual misconduct cases

The HCC has received several concerning complaints of inappropriate contact or sexual misconduct involving general health service providers.

General providers are those not regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

We have received 11 complaints involving allegations of sexual misconduct by general health service providers since February 2017. The complaints were typically against massage therapists, where unnecessary contact or inappropriate sexual comments were made, but also included complaints against other general providers in close, one-to-one situations.

Commissioner Karen Cusack said any sort of behaviour of this nature towards patients is not only a serious breach of trust, but also against the law.

The general code of conduct, which applies to all general health services including massage therapists, requires general health service providers to provide safe and ethical healthcare and prohibits any sexual misconduct or inappropriate behaviour.

“We are concerned by the serious nature of these complaints and that many other similar cases have likely gone unreported,” Ms Cusack said.

The HCC has been in contact with several of these general health service providers, as part of our complaint resolution process, to notify them of their obligations under the general code of conduct in effect since 1 February 2017. Several other cases are being investigated by Police and at least one is being formally investigated by the HCC.

Ms Cusack could not comment on ongoing investigations, but said that general providers needed to understand a breach of the general code of conduct could have serious consequences, including prohibition orders or public warning statements against them.

“A major focus for our legislation is to deal with dangerous, unsafe or unethical behaviour in unregulated professions such as this,” she said. “We are monitoring these complaints closely and looking to take action where possible.”

She said all general health service providers should familiarise themselves with their obligations under this general code of conduct and consider how it applies to their practice. They may also benefit from attending one of our free training sessions in 2018.

If people have any concerns about a health service provider in Victoria, including issues of ethical boundaries or sexual misconduct, they should contact the HCC. Specific support services for victims of sexual assault are also available and a person may report cases of sexual assault directly to Victoria Police.