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Put Women's Safety First

"The medical profession should be no different from other professions when dealing with members facing serious allegations of violence or sexual offending," acting Women's Affairs' Minister Phillida Bunkle said tonight.

She was commenting on Dr Morgan Fahey's admission of several sexual offences at the High Court in Christchurch yesterday. Ms Bunkle said Dr Fahey should not have been allowed to continue practising, or at least had supervision, until his innocence, or as has been the case, his guilt, was established.

She is urging the Council to put the interests and safety of women first to avoid another "Dr Morgan Fahey" disaster.

"I wrote to the Council in July last year suggesting that they require Dr Fahey to practice under supervision or to ensure patients were chaperoned when they saw him. This was at a time when he was on remand for what were very serious allegations."

"The law did not require the Council to act but it didn't prohibit them from action either.
What concerns me is that the Council seemed more concerned with not prejudging Dr Fahey before his day in court. I agree that we cannot undermine or preempt the judicial process which is the proper course of action, but I believe the Council could have done more to ensure the safety of women patients."

"Once again they put professional solidarity before patient safety. What I'm saying should have happened, is no different from a police officer or a teacher being stood down from duty pending the outcome of an inquiry into that person's behaviour," she said.

"Such precautions when serious allegations are made should be mandatory in the medicine area also. Patients should not have to wait, sometimes for years, before they are protected."

Ms Bunkle said most practices have a tax-payer funded practice nurse on site who would have made an ideal chaperone in the Morgan Fahey case.

"It's interesting to note that the police also asked a district court judge to impose a bail condition that Dr Fahey be supervised when dealing with women patients. That attempt was unsuccessful."

"In light of Dr Fahey's guilty pleas yesterday, it's important that we now look at making sure this never happens again.

"As Acting Minister of Women's Affairs and Consumer Affairs Minister, I'll be approaching the Medical Council, and seeking more consumer representation on their council, than the one position they have."

ENDS

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