News in brief: Neurologist reprimanded over photos of patient; Novel therapeutic pathway to target MS; Consultants urged to act on junior doctor wage theft

2 Feb 2022

Neurologist reprimanded for taking photos of patient

A Sydney neurologist has received a reprimand and had restrictions placed on his registration after being found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct for taking photographs without a patient’s consent.

In a case brought by NSW Health Care Complaints Commission against Dr Daniel Ghougassian, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of NSW ruled that he should not be the sole person on site when seeing patients and must not take photographs or video of any patients without written consent and documentation

The tribunal also ordered that he be mentored for at least 12 months and provide reports to show he is creating and keeping good medical records.

In delivering its decision, the tribunal accepted there was no sinister nor intentionally improper motive in the doctor’s conduct  and noted that he had shown insight into the concerns raised by the complaint.

Novel therapeutic pathway to target MS

A potential new treatment pathway for MS has been uncovered by Australian scientists investigating drugs that inhibit the undesirable inflammatory effects of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) say they have shown that NETs through their protein component histones can directly activate T cells and specifically enhance Th17 cell differentiation,  a process known to promote autoimmune diseases such as MS.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, Associate Professor Anne Bruestle and colleagues from the ANU Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease said the findings suggested that targeted therapies such as the histone-neutralising drug mCBS could inhibit the detrimental effects of NETs on Th17 cells and thus help MS patients manage the disease.

“While we cannot prevent autoimmune diseases such as MS, thanks to these types of therapies we hope to treat the condition and make it more manageable for people living with MS,” she said.

Consultants urged to act on junior doctor wage theft

Hospital consultants are being urged to help stop public hospital ‘wage theft’ from junior doctors.

An article in MJA Insight says that doctors-in-training are deterred from claiming overtime for fear of being labelled inefficient, incompetent or greedy. Since claims must be signed off by a consultant who usually act as a referee for the junior doctor’s reappointment, these senior clinicians are in a key position to help prevent the chronic underpayment of doctors-in-training, writes Dr Leanne Rowe. They must also support junior staff access to entitlements such extra shift allowances, on call penalties, breaks and training periods, she says.

“Senior consultants must urgently re-examine how they manage legitimate claims for the basic pay entitlements by subordinates, as well as notifying public hospital management of the need for adequate funding for payroll,” she writes.

“Continuing to expect junior doctors to perform significant additional volunteer hours in the presence of many other serious occupational health and safety issues is not only grossly unjust – it’s criminal,” she concludes.

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