Fake Doctors

A woman in the UK has been found to have been working as a psychiatrist for 22 years without any formal qualifications.

Zholia Alemi claimed to have a medical degree from Auckland University in New Zealand when she registered to practice psychiatry in the UK in 1995.
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However, she did not have a degree as she had dropped out of medical school in her first year. Alemi’s was convicted in October 2018 for fraud and theft while working as a consultant psychiatrist for a dementia service. The finding has prompted a review of 3,000 overseas trained doctors who are currently working in the UK.

Also recently Vincent Berg was jailed for a number of offences, including facing a medical diploma. He worked for almost two decades as a psychiatrist in Queensland. His fraudulent qualification was discovered in 2005 as a result of an inquiry by Queensland Health into another case of faked medical qualifications. Berg, originally from Russia, was eventually charged in 2009 after an investigation which lasted four years.

Earlier this year Di Paolo was found guilty of a number of charges including practising as a medical specialist when not qualified to do so. Di Paolo passed himself off as a gynaecologist and obstetrician in Melbourne for over a decade. Paolo used a forged university degree from a university in Rome to dupe his patients, many of whom were seeking fertility treatment.

There have been several cases of people found to be working in the health service in Australia fraudulently. Shyam Acharya committed identity fraud, stealing identity documents and medical qualification, to obtain Australian citizenship and medical registration. Acharya gained registration with the Medical Board of New South Wales in 2003, he then worked as a junior doctor for more than a decade in the public health service using the identity of Dr Sarang Chitale.

How do fake doctors get away with it?

In the UK, the General Medical Council (GMC) is responsible for ensuring doctors are qualified to practice. The GMC has stated that Alemi was registered according to a section of the Medical Act which allowed medical school graduates from some Commonwealth countries, including New Zealand. Under the provision, such applicants were not required to sit and pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam. The provision has not been in force since 2003.

In Australia, the Medical Board of Australia is responsible for regulating medical practitioners. In the case of Shyam Acharya, it was found that a lack of communication by the MBA to Mr Acharya’s employers along with damaged or missing documentation delayed the investigation. There were also no official complaints about his performance during his time working in the NSW health system. The inquiry into the case found that the fraud committed by Acharya could not occur today due to the introduction of more stringent registration processes for overseas trained doctors.