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Alleged Fake Doctor Was 'Aggressive' And 'Defensive' At Work

Shyam Acharya was reportedly known for his lack of medical knowledge and poor behaviour, according to a former colleague.

10/03/2017 8:15 AM AEDT | Updated 10/03/2017 6:01 PM AEDT
Fairfax / Supplied
Acharya is accused of stealing a doctor's name and medical qualifications while in India.

Shyam Acharya, the man who allegedly pretended to be a doctor in various New South Wales public hospitals, managed to fly under the radar of patients and staff for over a decade, despite his medical knowledge being "pretty shabby".

Armed with the identity of another man from India, it is alleged that Acharya was able to begin a new life in Australia, gaining citizenship and registering with the Medical Board of NSW in 2003.

He then began working as a doctor for over a decade at hospitals in Manly, Wyong, Hornsby and Gosford.

Despite a reputation that the junior doctor had earned in one of the hospitals of being "very fast" and "not very thorough", no documented complaints were ever received by the local health district nor were any performance issues reported to them.

In particular, supervising doctors who worked with Acharya at Gosford Hospital in 2003 were said to have been "so stressed just trying to get through the shift and trying to hold it together", that they failed to take their concerns further.

"The moment I heard his name I remembered him," a doctor who worked with Acharya told the ABC.

"There were at least five or six other doctors that were convinced that he was pretty shabby, that his medicine was unsavoury and that patients that he tried to hand over were not worked up very well.

"I wouldn't have taken his assessments for face value. He had a reputation of being very fast and not very thorough."

EunikaSopotnicka
Shyam Acharya's alleged deception continued over a decade.

Acharya's alleged deception was only unveiled in 2016, when his then-employer began to question his credentials and reported him to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and police.

A search is currently underway for the fake doctor, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

It is alleged that he took the name of Dr Sarang Chitale, using his identity to gain employment in the NSW public health system. After working in a string of NSW hospitals between 2003 and 2014, Acharya then later took a job with global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Sydney, which said that it was disappointed to hear the allegations.

His alleged deception continued over a decade before the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency began investigating him for "falsely holding himself out as a registered medical practitioner".

While working at Gosford Hospital, Acharya's former colleague, who asked the ABC to grant him anonymity, said he was "aggressive" and "defensive" at work, especially if anyone questioned his medical decisions.

"A fair few of the other doctors that I was working with had similar issues to me with him and with his medicine," the doctor said.

"But given the fact that he was new to the country and new to the Australian medical system, everyone cut him some slack."

The NSW President of the Australian Medical Association, Brad Frankum, has urged people not to pass judgement on foreign doctors because of the alleged actions of Acharya.

"I would hate to think that people would assume that this was in any way anything other than a very atypical situation," he said.

The family of the real Dr Chitale, who currently works in the UK, reportedly told The Daily Telegraph that the situation was "distressing and shocking".

"There is nothing we can do, all we can do is carry on," Chitale's wife said.

Fairfax / Aaron Brown
Acharya worked at a string of NSW hospitals, including Wyong Hospital on the state's Central Coast.

Acharya has been charged under Section 116 of the Health Practitioner National Regulation Law (NSW) for falsely claiming to be a medical practitioner.

If convicted, he faces a maximum fine of $30,000, something which both the State and Federal governments agree should be changed to a jail term.

"I'm horrified that this fellow managed to get into the NSW hospital system," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

"If we can catch this guy he deserves jail and the problem is at the moment that the maximum you can get is $30,000. Greg Hunt and I -- and, I would believe the other ministers -- are intent on changing this."

Karen Crawshaw, Deputy Secretary of NSW Health, said that the proceedings against Acharya will not deal with how he was allegedly able to enter and leave Australia in the name of Dr Sarang.

"It is alleged in these proceedings that Mr Acharya appropriated another doctor's name and medical qualifications while living in India and that he used these stolen and other fraudulent documents to gain registration falsely with the Medical Board of NSW," she said.

"The matters currently before the court do not deal with how he was able to enter and leave Australia or how he obtained Australian citizenship in the name of the other doctor."

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