What’s behind Australia’s medical drama?
Australia’s public health system has been rocked by a series of controversies over the past week, with two doctors accused of sexually assaulting female patients and a number of doctors embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment.
What is the public health crisis?
In 2015, doctors in the northern city of Brisbane admitted to performing sexual acts on patients in a hospital parking lot, while two more were arrested.
They were eventually cleared of the charges.
More recently, doctors have been accused of touching female patients in the back of ambulances and on the operating table, and using the equipment to perform sex acts.
The incidents were reported to police in 2016.
The latest scandal was uncovered when a former doctor in Brisbane was charged with three counts of indecent assault, including penetration of a patient’s vagina.
He was released on bail after a plea bargain was made and pleaded guilty to one count of indecent exposure in October.
The Australian Medical Association has called for the doctors charged to be sacked or disciplined, and is currently holding a leadership review.
The AMA has called on the government to consider a “zero tolerance” approach to sexual harassment, and has also called for doctors to be charged and convicted of sexual assault.
Who are the doctors?
The doctors accused include Dr Ian MacLaren and Dr Martin Johnson.
They are also the head of a hospital in Brisbane and the former president of the Queensland Medical Association.
The Brisbane doctors have denied any wrongdoing.
Dr Johnson has denied the allegations, and described them as “a gross misjudgement of my character”.
He said he was the victim of “vile and malicious attacks”.
“I have always believed that no doctor should ever touch a patient inappropriately,” he said.
Dr MacLancas’ lawyer, Michael Dickson, said his client was “extremely remorseful” and was looking forward to a “long and successful and respectful relationship” with the public.
He said Dr Maclaren had been “disappointed” by the charges, but was “not surprised”.
“Dr Maclancas will not be making any further comment,” Mr Dickson said.
“He has expressed his sincere regret and is very grateful for the support and encouragement he has received from Queensland Health and Medical Research Council staff.”
The ABC has spoken to Dr Johnson’s former colleague, Dr Mark Pritchard.
Dr Pritcher, who has been charged with sexually assaulting a patient, said the allegations were “unfounded”.
He was cleared of any wrongdoing last year.
What are the allegations?
The charges relate to two incidents in November and December last year in which Dr Mac Laren and a colleague allegedly touched a female patient in a car park in Brisbane’s northern city.
The alleged incident took place in November last year, when Dr Maclon and Dr Johnson allegedly took a patient to a carpark in the city’s North Park.
The woman told police she was asleep when the alleged attack happened.
A third incident happened in December.
The women said the alleged assault took place after they had left their hospital bed.
The patient, who was then 32, was “totally intoxicated” and did not remember anything after the alleged sexual assault, the woman told the court.
Dr Martin and Dr Maclin are the head and vice-president of the Brisbane hospital, which is located on a busy shopping street near Brisbane airport.
The pair also are on the board of Queensland Health, which manages the state’s public hospitals.
The hospital has apologised to the woman for the alleged incident, and said it would conduct an internal investigation.
The case is being investigated by the Queensland Police Integrity Commission.
The ABC’s Andrew North reports from Brisbane.
The AP’s John-Paul Cairns, Matt Leake, John-Anne MacGregor, Rebecca Jones, Paul Dolan and Sarah Maclean contributed to this report.