NSW police have been asked to investigate a man who allegedly stole a doctor’s identity and managed to remain employed for more than a decade at four of the state’s hospitals.
Shyam Acharya has already been charged by the Australia Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority but NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says the maximum $30,000 penalty is woefully inadequate.
He has asked Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to pursue the case after previously leaving it to federal authorities and the state’s top cop has agreed.
Mr Hazzard said a police investigation could help NSW Health efforts to seize Acharya’s North Ryde house, estimated to be worth at least $1.25 million, in order to recoup his wages.
“There is a possibility that if this person were convicted of fraud, we may be able to get some of the money back under the proceeds of crime legislation,” Mr Hazzard told reporters on Saturday afternoon.
However he said seizing the home could by complicated because another person, possibly Acharya’s wife, was on the title.
Mr Hazzard also confirmed plans for an independent inquiry into how Acharya was allegedly able to “con the entire health system”.
Acharya is said to have posed as Dr Sarang Chitale by entering Australia on a fake passport and gaining registration with the Medical Board of NSW.
He worked in hospitals at Manly, Hornsby, Gosford and Wyong while the real doctor practised as a specialist in the UK.
Acharya is now on the run and believed to have fled overseas.
— Jane Hay (@Mestudentoflife) March 9, 2017
Labor’s health spokesman Walt Secord is backing efforts to seize the Acharya’s house and has given in-principle support to an independent investigation.
”The community has a right to know if his activity led to clinical errors,” he said in a statement.
“Thousands of patients and their families have question marks over their treatment.”
Since allegations about Acharya became public less than a week ago, Mr Hazzard said about 30 people had called NSW Health believing they had been treated by him.
Twenty six were either mistaken or had been treated by Acharya but had suffered no adverse affects as a result. The remaining four cases are still being investigated.
“The health department has indicated to me at this point that there doesn’t appear to be any serious concerns, but certainly we’ve got to look at everyone,” Mr Hazzard said.