Dr Gonasagaran Ruthnam - Unsatisfactory Professional Conduct

07 June 2018

The Health Care Complaints Commission prosecuted a complaint before a Medical Professional Standards Committee against Dr Gonasagaran Ruthnam, a general practitioner in Coffs Harbour, in relation to his conduct during three home visits to a patient over two days.

The patient had a history of depression and anxiety and had previously attempted suicide. During the first home visit, the patient told Dr Ruthnam that he wanted to die but Dr Ruthnam decided that the patient did not meet the requirement for involuntary admission. During the second home visit later that evening, Dr Ruthnam administered a large dose of Valium and took an envelope containing a sum of money for safe keeping, leaving the patient alone in his home overnight. During the third home visit the following morning, the respondent did not wake the sleeping patient. Later that morning, the patient called 000 and was involuntarily admitted to hospital. Dr Ruthnam returned the cash envelope to the hospital several days later. The Complaint included allegations that Dr Ruthnam failed to provide appropriate care to the patient and failed to maintain appropriate records.

On 10 May 2018, the Professional Standards Committee published its decision. The Committee found the facts of the subject matter of the complaints proven and that while Dr Ruthnam had adequately assessed the patient, his conduct was unsatisfactory in that:

  • prescribing of Valium was conduct significantly below the relevant standard because the dose was excessive, the patient had an unsteady gait which increased his risk of falling and the patient would be unsupervised overnight.
  • failure to record in the patient’s clinical notes the particulars of his clinical opinion of the patient’s suicide risk was in breach of regulations concerning record-keeping by medical practitioners.

Decision

The Committee found Dr Ruthnam guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and imposed a formal caution and conditions that he complete further education regarding suicide risk prevention and managing difficult patients.

 

Further Information

A copy of the Professional Standards Committee’s decision can be found here

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.