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Tasmania’s chief psychiatrist Aaron Groves suspended for alleged ‘inappropriate’ personal relationship

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Tasmania’s Court of Appeal has explained why the state’s chief psychiatrist had his registration suspended by the Medical Board of Australia last month.

Aaron Groves had begun an allegedly ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a woman, whom the medical board described as having a ‘power imbalance’. However, Dr. Groves and the woman involved disputed this characterization.

The Medical Board suspended Dr Groves’ registration on October 3 and his attempt to lift his immediate suspension – heard by the Tasmanian Civil and Administration Tribunal (TASCAT) – was rejected.

His job has been temporarily suspended.

The woman had notified the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) in February 2021 of allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” against her by a doctor at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) – not Dr Groves – between 2013 and 2019.

She claimed the doctor contacted her despite being told not to.

In March 2021, then-Health Minister Sarah Courtney met the woman and an adviser arranged for Dr Groves to contact her to discuss mental health issues – with her permission.

He arranged for her to undergo treatment the next day by another doctor, as part of the government’s home mental health unit.

Dr Groves maintained “sporadic” contact with her in 2021, and they then began a personal relationship in December.

In its ruling last month, TASCAT senior member Lucinda Jack said AHPRA was notified that Dr. Groves had prescribed a Schedule 8 controlled drug in June 2022.

The following month, Health Department Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks told Dr Groves that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe a violation of the state service code of conduct could have occurred. produce.

In August, Ms Morgan-Wicks laid out further grounds for breach and a full investigation into Dr Groves’ code of conduct began. He was suspended with full pay.

The next day, the department notified AHPRA of the personal relationship. The Medical Board of Australia chose to take “immediate action” and suspended Dr Groves.

Woman says Groves was ‘professional and supportive’

The medical board alleged that Dr Groves ‘was aware’ that the woman was ‘vulnerable and suffered from mental health issues’.

Dr. Groves requested a review of this decision and a suspension for the duration of the review.

He said he never performed a clinical assessment of the woman, did not treat her, spoke only about the complaint to her RHH doctor and used the department’s Connecting with People approach when of his first contact.

Dr Groves – in his stay application – said their continued contact was about updates to his complaint.

In a witness statement, the woman described Dr. Groves as “a professional [and] favorable”, and disputed that there ever was a clinical doctor-patient relationship.

She “challenged” AHPRA’s characterization as “vulnerable, drug-affected [and] mental illness”.

Dr Groves requested a reprieve from the suspension as he believed there was a “serious question” about the decision.

The medical board alleged that Dr Groves misrepresented his financial situation because he did not include that he had been suspended with full pay for more than five weeks before the immediate action decision and that he remained on full pay at the time of the hearing last month.

In her decision, Ms Jack said a stay of the suspension decision would not affect the ministry’s code of conduct investigation process, and Dr Groves’ request was therefore dismissed.

The review of the suspension will be heard at a later date.

A woman with blond hair is sitting at a desk and talking
Rosalie Woodruff said that without the “media reports” the case may never have been made public.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Silence “is not a good antidote”

Tasmanian Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff criticized the government for what she described as a “complete lack of transparency on a whole range of issues” surrounding the issue.

“The Inquiry has shown us that unless those in power are held accountable, they cannot have confidence in their institutions. It is very important that the Prime Minister is very clear with Tasmanians,” he said. she declared.

“There was a gap in the information provided on this situation with the Chief Psychiatrist. Silence is not a good antidote to bad behavior and potential misconduct.

“The allegations need to be tested in court, but as things stand we haven’t had transparency from the Department of Health on this. [It was] only by the media reporting that this matter came to light in the first place.

“This is very concerning for Tasmanians.”

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