Dr Robert Starkenburg – Registration cancelled

13 Feb 2017

The Commission prosecuted a complaint before the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’) against Dr Robert Starkenburg, a dentist in Bondi Junction.

On 9 February 2017, the Tribunal found proved the Commission’s complaint that Dr Starkenburg had engaged in professional misconduct.

The Tribunal found that in 2014, during an inspection by a Dental Council of NSW inspector, Dr Starkenburg had  failed to maintain proper infection control at his surgery in numerous respects by failing to:

  • have in place appropriate procedures for surface cleaning and decontamination between patients;
  • maintain separate clean and contaminated zones within the treatment room or instrument reprocessing area;
  • observe proper standards for the safe transfer of used instruments and materials;
  • have adequate cleaning aids or facilities;
  • ensure that instruments were sterile at point of use (if required);
  • have an ultrasonic cleaner that was appropriately tested or contained appropriate cleaning solution;
  • have an autoclave that was tested or calibrated on an annual basis;
  • maintain adequate batch control identification or maintain and store instruments in a hygienic manner;
  • observe appropriate practice and procedure in relation to hand hygiene; and
  • maintain and make available appropriate information relating to infection control policies and procedures.

The Tribunal found that Dr Starkenburg had failed to keep proper clinical records for a patient.  It also noted that In 2015, the NSW Ministry of Health conducted an inquiry and attempted to make contact with up to 800 of Dr Starkenburg’s current and past patients.  A media release was issued and a dedicated telephone hotline established with the Ministry recommending that all of Dr Starkenburg’s patients be tested for blood-borne viruses; however it was not able to make contact with all of the patients, or to make an accurate assessment of the risk to each patient, because the patient records were “generally incomplete”.

Decision

The Tribunal cancelled Dr Starkenburg’s registration.

The Tribunal found that Dr Starkenburg’s failures to meet the most basic standards of infection control and hygiene across a range of areas of his practice constituted a gross breach of the required professional standards and posed a serious and sustained risk to the health of his patients. The Tribunal held grave concerns as to Dr Starkenburg’s ability to practice safely and concluded that he did not fully appreciate the importance of professional standards, nor would be necessarily comply with them in the absence of ongoing monitoring.

Further Information

The full decision is available at NSW Caselaw

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

The information in this media release is correct at the time of publication. Orders may change; for example, conditions may no longer apply. For current information regarding the status of a registered health practitioner, including any conditions that currently apply, please check the National Register at www.ahpra.gov.au.