NOTIFICATIONS ABOUT VETERINARY SURGEONS
The Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia administers the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 and the Veterinary Practice Regulations 2005 (the Act). One of the roles of the Board is to regulate the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons, in order to maintain a high standard of service for the community.
If you wish to notify the Registrar of any matter of concern regarding the conduct of a veterinary surgeon, please complete the form provided and set out the relevant facts in chronological order. If you were not the person presenting the animal to the veterinary surgeon, please provide the name and address of that person. If possible, please include a signed statement by the person who dealt with the veterinary surgeon.
The steps involved in processing, assessing and investigating a notification are as follows:
1. The Registrar will receive the notification and consider its level of seriousness.
2. The Registrar will confirm receipt of the notification in writing.
3. The veterinary surgeon will be sent a copy of the completed notification form and will be asked to respond to the issues arising from the reported matters. If other veterinary surgeons are involved in the matter, the Registrar will request a report from those veterinary surgeons. Copies of patient records will be requested.
4. In some circumstances, a copy of the veterinary surgeon’s response will be provided to you. You may be invited to provide any further evidence and state where you disagree with the facts presented.
5. The Registrar will present the notification to the Board’s Notifications Committee. The committee will consider relevant documents and provide advice to the Registrar.
6. If the Registrar determines that the matter constitutes proper cause for disciplinary action against the veterinary surgeon, the Registrar may lay a disciplinary complaint before the Board alleging unprofessional conduct.
7. If the Registrar lays a formal complaint before the Board, you will be notified and may be asked to participate in a record of interview and attend a hearing to give evidence. If the Board finds that the veterinary surgeon has engaged in unprofessional conduct, the Board may impose a range of sanctions, from imposition of a fine to cancellation of registration.
Unprofessional conduct includes:
(a) improper or unethical conduct in relation to professional practice; and
(b) incompetence or negligence in relation to the provision of veterinary treatment; and
(c) contravention of or failure to comply with –
(i) a provision of the Act; or
(ii) a code of conduct or professional standards prepared or endorsed by the Board under the Act; and
(d) conduct that constitutes an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or more under some other Act or law.
8. If the Registrar determines not to lay a complaint before the Board, the Registrar will resolve the notification informally (for example by requiring the veterinary surgeon to undergo a counselling session by issuing a written warning or negotiating the provision of voluntary undertakings). Alternatively, the Registrar may determine that there is no proper basis on which to take any action against the veterinary surgeon.
The notification assessment process can take between 9-18 months (and sometimes longer) for the following reasons:
1. The Board's Notifications Committee members undertake their work on a part-time sessional basis and meet periodically (approximately 6 times per year);
2. Parties must be given adequate time to consider and respond to a notification and requests for information from the Registrar;
3. Parties may wish to consult with others (eg their professional indemnity insurer/lawyer);
4. The Notifications Committee and the Registrar may wish to meet with the veterinary surgeon for some discussion; and
5. Other information (including expert opinions) may need to be sought.
Please note that the Board has no power under the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 to deal with notifications relating to fee disputes, and is not able to order veterinary surgeons to pay compensation/damages.
Please also note due to the confidentiality provision of the Veterinary Practice Act 2003, the Registrar will be limited in the information which she can disclose to you about the outcome of her assessment of the matter and any disciplinary action taken by the Board against the veterinary surgeon. However, if conditions are imposed on a veterinary surgeonís registration as a result of a disciplinary inquiry conducted by the Board, those conditions will be on the public record.