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GP asked to apologise to patient's wife and family for failing to maintain 'professional boundaries'

A general practitioner (GP) has been asked to apologise to a wife and family after failing to maintain "professional boundaries" with a male patient.

Source: 1 NEWS

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill today released a report finding the GP in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, otherwise known as the code.

According to the report: "The man, his wife and their children were registered as patients of the GP at a medical centre.

"The GP and the man became Facebook friends and began to develop a personal relationship, and the GP transferred the man to another doctor at the practice. However, the wife and the children remained her patients.

"Around two months later, the man told his wife that he was having an affair and was leaving her.

"The wife, distraught, sought an appointment for a medical certificate with the medical centre and an appointment was scheduled with the GP.

"On learning that the wife had booked to see her, the GP panicked and messaged the man that his wife had made an appointment."

The report also notes the man told his wife he was leaving her for their GP the same morning the wife made the appointment on November 19, 2018.

However, the GP says she and her patient only struck up a physical relationship in January 2019.

Commissioner Hill considered that the GP had failed to comply with professional and ethical standards by forming a relationship with the man while his wife and children were her patients, and by breaching the woman’s confidentiality by messaging her husband about the appointment.

"[The GP] should have been aware that forming a personal relationship with [the man] could impact negatively on [the wife’s] care and that of the children," Mr Hill said.

In his findings, Mr Hill recommended that the GP enter into a mentoring relationship with a senior colleague for one year to ensure she maintains appropriate professional boundaries with patients and their families, and that she apologise to the wife and her family.

The full report for case 19HDC01197 is available on the HDC website.