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Doctor struck off after claiming $420k for backpackers who'd left NZ

Shannon Pitman,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Dec 2023, 11:50AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Doctor struck off after claiming $420k for backpackers who'd left NZ

Shannon Pitman,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Dec 2023, 11:50AM

A doctor who signed up departing British and Australian backpackers for long-term healthcare subsidies at her clinic claimed more than $420,000 in funding by falsely registering the 2618 patients when they were ineligible. 

Now Auckland GP Dr Judith Gill has been struck off by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal for misconduct. 

Gill owned and operated Queen Street Healthcare (Auckland Metro Doctors) Ltd and The Travel Clinics (Travel Care) New Zealand Limited, referred to as AMDT from 2000 to 2011 which received funding for patients from Auckland Primary Health Care (PHO) ProCare and the then Auckland District Health Board. 

Capitation funding is based on the enrolled PHO population with PHOs and their general practices paid according to the number of people enrolled, not the number of times a provider sees patients. 

Charges were initially laid by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2015 but were later withdrawn based on a confidential settlement between the ministry and Gill. 

On August 13, 2019, a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) laid a disciplinary charge alleging professional misconduct against Gill after a long investigation. 

The doctor, who was the sole director and shareholder of the clinic, allegedly filled in false information in order for the patient to be eligible for the funding, according to details of the charge. 

Following the investigation into Gill’s practice, the Ministry of Health identified 2618 patients included on her registers who were not eligible for public funding for the health services provided. 

To be eligible for the funding, the patients needed to be living in New Zealand and consent to the clinic to have it as their primary healthcare provider. 

But the majority of patients applying for the funding through the clinic were travellers from the United Kingdom (1772), and Australia. 

Of the 2618 not eligible, 194 had not consented to the clinic becoming their primary healthcare provider. 

At the tribunal hearing last June a former ProCare worker said if an application for funding was successful, the patient would get funded healthcare in New Zealand for three years. 

“The doctor was enrolling patients who were about to travel back to their home country.” 

Between 2003 and 2011, Gill claimed $420,652 for ineligible patients from the public health fund administered by the Auckland DHB, now Te Whatu Ora, under ProCare. 

The tribunal hearing for Gill was postponed twice for Covid reasons and three times at the request of Gill with one reason that she wanted to wait until her child was 12 months old. 

Gill indicated to the PCC she wished to defend the charge, however, when the hearing finally took place in June last year, she did not appear and only filed a statement. 

In her statement, Gill said the investigation by the PCC was redundant and she had already paid back the funding although there was no evidence provided to support this. 

Several witnesses were called to give evidence including the former receptionist and senior manager of ProCare who said Gill “knew more [about enrolment rules] than the average general practitioner because she wanted to know who would be eligible and who wouldn’t be”. 

The tribunal found the charges against the doctor established, finding her guilty of professional misconduct, and malpractice which it said discredited the medical profession. 

In the decision, made in December last year but only released this week, tribunal chairwoman Maria Dew, KC, ordered a formal censure against Gill, the cancellation of her registration, and directed her to pay $173,837 of the legal costs incurred for the hearing. 

Gill’s application for permanent name suppression was declined because the tribunal said it was in the public interest that she be identified. 

“The embarrassment and distress to Dr Gill are unfortunate and it may well impact her health, but we are not satisfied on the evidence available that this is anything more than the natural consequences of publication in these circumstances.” 

Shannon Pitman is a Whangārei based reporter for Open Justice covering courts in the Te Tai Tokerau region. She is of Ngāpuhi/ Ngāti Pūkenga descent and has worked in digital media for the past five years. She joined NZME in 2023. 

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