MELBOURNE: An Indian man in Australia has been accused of impersonating a doctor and working in various hospitals for more than a decade with the immigration minister terming the case as a "big failing of the system".
Shyam Acharya took the name of another man in India, Sarang Chitale, before he began a new life in Australia, where he registered with the Medical Board of New South Wales (NSW) in 2003, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. He then used the identity of the doctor to gain employment in the NSW public health system.
The authorities have been unable to find or contact him saying his current whereabouts are unknown.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the issue is a "big failing of the system", warning the consequences could have been "diabolical" if he had posed a national security threat.
Acharya worked for NSW Health as a junior doctor from 2003 to May 2014 at four hospitals in Australia.
In 2013, Acharya worked for international pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, before moving to medical research group Novatech in 2016. The alleged deception was not detected until November 2016, when the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency began investigating him for "falsely holding himself out as a registered medical practitioner".
Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been alerted. NSW Health was notified shortly afterwards and launched its own investigation, deputy secretary Karen Crawshaw said.
"It is alleged in these proceedings that Acharya appropriated another doctor's name and medical qualifications while living in India and that he used these stolen and other fraudulent documents to gain registration falsely with the Medical Board of NSW," Crawshaw said. "The matters currently before the court do not deal with how he was able to enter and leave Australia or how he obtained Australian citizenship in the name of the other doctor," she said. The matter is due to return to court in early April.
Acharya has been charged under section 116 of the Health Practitioner National Regulation Law (NSW), which makes it an offence to use a title that could make others believe you are a registered medical professional. If he is convicted, he faces a fine of up to USD 30,000. NSW Health said Acharya was a junior doctor with limited registration, meaning he was required to work under the supervision of others. "It is noted that Acharya's involvement was only as one of a number in the clinical team that treated the patient. NSW Health has notified solicitors acting for the patient," Crawshaw said.