NZ: Physio cleared of straddling patient, but was topless, hugged her and spoke about weed

A physiotherapist was not found to have straddled a client on a plinth, but a health authority found he was topless and did swear throughout her appointments, talk about weed and hug her.

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal today censured the physio, who has interim name suppression, bringing the week-long hearing to an end.

It declined to suspend him further as he had already been suspended for four and a half years awaiting his hearing.

The tribunal found some charges proven but dismissed a few including that he slid in behind her on a chair and that he failed to adequately store his patient files.

Tribunal chairwoman Theo Baker said the client may have been mistaken about some aspects of her treatment, but preferred most of her evidence, particularly the physio’s use of the word f***.

However, she believed the woman was mistaken about him saying c*** and that he did not straddle her on a plinth.

The woman was facedown at the time and could not see what he was doing and it was “feasible” for physios to “make some contact” throughout their appointments, so the charge was dismissed.

However, he was found to have undone her bra strap without proper consent.

Holding her appointment outside on the grass was also “inappropriate” and likely a contributing factor to her suffering an injury when the physio’s elbow went into her rib.

Baker said the physio continued to perform services that fell within the scope of physiotherapy for more than nine months after being suspended, so was guilty of that charge.

Performing neck manipulations and acupuncture without proper qualifications was also negligent and required sanction, Baker said, as was his lack of health and safety policies.

Charges relating to failing to retain and store clinical records after some files were lost in a flood, later stored in his car, and more lost on a transfer to a different office, Baker said the physio should have taken more care with them, but dismissed both charges.

The tribunal also declined to issue permanent name suppression but allowed it to continue for a month.

Strict conditions were imposed if he did decide to continue with physiotherapy, including two years’ of supervision and not to work in isolation.

He was also ordered to pay a “modest” fine of $500 and pay around $45,000 towards costs.

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