Psychiatrist faces professional ruin for defrauding Victorian WorkCover Authority of $44,000
By Steve Butcher
August 28, 2015
Pralay Mazumdar’s offending included providing false information that caused an inpatient to spend more time in hospital than was necessary for which the doctor received $1500.
Dr Mazumdar, 61, committed the offences over an 18-month period from March 2012 at a 54-bed psychiatric drug and alcohol hospital in Dandenong where he provided consulting psychiatric services to a number of patients who were VWA clients.
The County Court had heard that Dr Mazumdar provided false information 114 times to staff at the St John of God Pinelodge Clinic to fraudulently obtain $21,735 for outpatient consultations.
VWA prosecutor Peter Matthews said Dr Mazumdar also provided false information in 35 representations to obtain $13,399 for claims for inpatients while another $7439 was to the benefit of the clinic.
Mr Matthews said he had provided false information to VWA agents about three inpatients’ health “painting a more negative picture than was in fact the case”.
A fourth inpatient’s stay was extended beyond what it should have been because Dr Mazumdar provided false information to a VWA agent and a clinical panel member.
Judge Michael Tinney on Friday described that as an “extraordinary piece of conduct” of overall high culpability offending by a highly educated doctor regarded as “highly principled”.
Judge Tinney said the “systematic rorting” of the VWA was not a “blip of a few bad acts”, but had been committed over a significant period of time where a “theme of dishonesty flows”.
Hospital staff were not complicit and were placed, said Mr Matthews, in a difficult situation by his conduct which was stopped when VWA investigators executed search warrants at the hospital where he rented a consultancy suite.
Dr Mazumdar appealed an earlier magistrate’s sentence after he pleaded guilty to six charges that included fraudulently obtaining payments and providing false information.
The magistrate fined him $5000 and imposed a six month jail sentence, suspended for nine months.
Defence barrister Trevor Wraight QC said because of the misconduct, his client – who has no prior convictions and has repaid the money – had suffered an “enormous cost” far beyond the loss of his job and reputation.
Mr Wraight told judge Michael Tinney that Dr Mazumdar at the time was “under extreme pressure at home” with family health issues while his peers – many who provided character references or attended court – were “flabbergasted” at his aberrant behaviour.
He will later face a medical board hearing that “may result in the end of his career”, he said.
Judge Tinney on Friday found that while Dr Mazumdar had shown some remorse it was “not complete by any means” based on remarks by some character referees who wrote of his “error of judgement”, “losing track of time” and “inadvertence”.
“We are dealing with fraud,” the judge said, and while there were some “stressors” in his life there were none that explained the offending that he regarded as “that of greed”.
Judge Tinney set aside the magistrate’s orders, reimposed the $5000 fine on two charges and put Dr Mazumdar on a two year community corrections order with special conditions that included 350 hours of unpaid work and a series of mandatory conditions on the remaining counts.