Groundless complaints can drive doctors away. Here’s why patients need to be held accountable | Ranjana Srivastava

Last Updated: June 22, 2024By

The Patient’s Accountability: A Doctor’s Tale

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“I’ve got something to show you,” my friend says across our rushed lunch date. We’ve barely settled when she plays me a voicemail. I listen intently, hitting replay thrice. The message feels like a half-cooked dinner: warm on the surface, cold within.

It’s from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), the folks who keep an eye on doctors’ credibility.

In the voicemail, a guy calmly hints that a complaint is headed her way. He acknowledges it’s stressful but offers zero advice on dealing with the bombshell.

That night, she’s a wreck. Twenty-five years of patients—some unhappy, some just hard to please—haunt her thoughts. Did she mess up so badly someone complained?

Next morning, she drives to work distracted, seeing patients with a heavy heart. When her inbox dings, she waits till everyone’s gone. Ahpra’s email says she’s under review, needs to list all workplaces, and keeps it under wraps from the public.

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The complaint’s flimsy: missed chronic pain diagnosis, diagnosed a decade later. She can’t recall the patient, database confirms zip. Relief turns sour. Did the system glitch? Why go unnoticed?

Late that night, hungry and tired, she crawls into bed, sleep elusive.

Next day, she digs up records from the past decade, still zilch.

Puzzled, she calls Ahpra, apologizing for not recognizing the name.

The guy says she might be right but suggests she explain how she’d treat the pain. Seriously? Chronic pain’s no joke, treatments vary. How can she predict?

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Despite wanting closure, the absurdity stuns her. Her lawyer drafts a curt reply to Ahpra.

Then begins the agonizing wait. Anxiety eats her peace.

Why her? What if they find more? Lose license, reputation, livelihood?

Disillusionment sets in. She distances from patients, wary of complaints. Sacrificed family time, yet here she is—thankless job, personal toll.

But good doctors never stop caring. Days are patients; nights are stress.

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Ahpra advises talking to peers—more tales of woe.

Take my cancer patient. Declined visits, then blamed me for neglect. Proof’s on me.

Balance tips: doctors vs. patients. High standards for all, but only doctors face fire.

Ahpra claims few fake complaints, but GPs disagree—80% stung.

Scripts, certificates, masks—each complaint, paperwork, dread.

Is Ahpra’s filter flawed? Baseless complaints harm, drive doctors away.

Society loses good care. Complaints need fact-check, patient education, fair trials.

Months later, Ahpra clears her. No case. Relief, tinged with anger.

Next time, she might quit. Flawed complaints cost good doctors.

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