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Tribunal finds Bunbury sex assault doctor guilty of misconduct

On Monday, the Tribunal upheld the Board’s allegation that the doctor was guilty of professional misconduct for the eight offences, and a further allegation that he had twice breached conditions stopping him physically examining female patients unchaperoned.

Dr Panda continued to dispute the allegations but did not file any witness statements, documents or provide questions for cross-examination of witnesses before the scheduled final hearing.

That was scheduled for February, but twice he applied to delay these hearings on medical grounds and never produced any questions, evidence or documents. Finally the SAT determined that without any new evidence or basis to cross examine the witnesses it would determine the matter entirely on the documents.

Dr Panda then, with pro bono legal assistance, made written submissions.

The tribunal listed the material facts of each case. In the first, on a January day in 2012, a 32-year-old woman went to see Dr Panda for tonsillitis. While he initially examined her throat and chest, he then told her he wanted to check her for skin cancers then pulled down her bra, jiggled her breasts, asked her to lie down so he could check her stomach, pulled down her skirt and underwear, and grabbed her vagina.

On the same day an 18-year-old patient went to see Dr Panda to get the results of a blood test. He asked her if she needed a pap smear and she said she did not. He then asked her if she needed any potential skin cancers checked and she agreed to an examination of a couple of moles. She lay down and he put his hands into her top and bra, touching and holding her breasts. He asked her to take her underpants down and she refused, but he did it himself, spread her legs and touched her vagina for several minutes.

Both quickly made complaints and he was later that month given the chaperone condition.

Despite this, in July, Dr Panda asked a 24-year-old patient, who had come in for a sore chest, coughing and wheezing, to sit on the examination table and lift up her jumper.

Dr Panda then lifted the remainder of her outer clothes and removed one of her breasts from her bra, slid his hand into her bra and cupped her breast, used the other hand to put the end of the stethoscope on her breast around her nipple, while asking her to breathe in and out. She saw he did not have the ear pieces of the stethoscope in his ears. He touched both her breasts for several minutes then after the examination, stroked her hand, hugged her and asked her to meet him for sex.

He assaulted two more young female patients after this, forgoing the chaperone, attempting to kiss one repeatedly as she tried to turn her face away, and hugging another and fondling her breasts.

The tribunal noted Dr Panda’s allegations that the complaints were fabricated as part of a conspiracy by the other practice employees because of his popularity with patients. Dr Panda alleged to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority in 2017, in referring to the doctors and staff of the family medical centre, ‘their main motto were to involve me in as many cases as possible’.

The tribunal found this implausible.

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“Dr Panda’s conduct represents a most grave departure from the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience,” it wrote.

“The circumstances underpinning the convictions evidence a serious violation of the trust placed in him. Dr Panda abused the significant power differential which existed between himself and each of his patients for his own sexual gratification.”

The Tribunal instructed the Board and Dr Panda to file and serve written submissions in relation to orders and penalty by November 25 and December 16 respectively. The matter is to be determined entirely on the documents.

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