Senior doc hits out over ‘corrupt conduct’ finding
A SENIOR doctor stood aside amid a probe into the use of government funds for an indigenous health program has been found to have engaged in maladministration amounting to corrupt conduct by an independent investigator.
Darren Lester Walters, Prince Charles Hospital (PCH) director of cardiology, claims the finding against him by accountancy firm BDO is wrong and could "permanently shut" him out of public hospital work in the state.
Dr Walters, of Bridgeman Downs, was suspended on full pay in April last year pending a probe into how he managed the Indigenous Cardiac Outreach Program (ICOP), which provided care for aboriginal people living in remote areas of Queensland.
BDO was tasked with investigating claims of fraudulent invoicing, misappropriation of federal health funds and use of unqualified staff to perform clinical work.
Details of the BDO findings were revealed after Dr Walters launched legal action against Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) in the Supreme Court.
Dr Walters claims the report's findings and MNHHS's decision to suspend and discipline him harmed his "distinguished professional career and his reputation as an academic".
The BDO report was filed in the Supreme Court as part of his legal action.
It recommends the Australian Federal Police and Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) consider prosecuting or disciplining ICOP staff over allegations of "misleading" invoicing for nearly $300,000 in government health funding.
Dr Walters is alleged to have failed "to adequately govern the administration of ICOP", according to the Crime and Corruption Commission, which reviewed the BDO report.
ICOP is alleged to have incorrectly claimed between $275,320 and $295,000 in federal funding for a nurse and a health worker, according to the BDO report.
The nurse and health worker "did not have the appropriate qualifications or registration" to do their jobs, the report said.
Dr Walters told investigators that "he had no idea that ICOP had billed" the Government "for nurses". BDO found there was a "lack of governance" in submitting reimbursement claims.
It also advised that "consideration should be given to referring" the matter to AHPRA.
The BDO report cleared Dr Walters of claims of fraudulent application for government funding and of reprisal against whistleblower Peter Malouf, the former state manager of the cardiac program, by isolating or bullying him.
Dr Walters "has not been charged with, or invited to show cause" in relation to the BDO finding of corrupt conduct.
The CCC advised MNHHS last year that "Professor Walters is ultimately responsible for the failure of ICOP management".
ICOP visits 34 rural and remote communities four times a year to give cardiac health services.
Dr Walters argued he was "responsible for the clinical leadership" of ICOP but not financial or business administration work.
Dr Walters has been PCH director of cardiology since 2005.
The case is due in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on February 7.