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From Ludhiana; to Texas; to New Zealand and onto Australia

Perth based radiologist, Dr Robert Taylor, 47, has had his registration cancelled after revelations that he is facing sex assault charges in US under the name of Dr Max Mehta.

1969 born, Dr Max Mehta, as he was known earlier, is originally from Ludhiana in Punjab, India.

Dr Taylor a.k.a Dr Mehta has been working in Australia for five years after moving from New Zealand in 2006, when he tendered four separate applications to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) denying any past criminal history.

What is shocking is that background checks of foreign doctors are ‘bloody awful’, said Ross Jones, a former colleague of Dr Taylor (Mehta).

Referring to inadequacies, Jones called for the system to be overhauled on ABC’s 7.30.

“The background checks are bloody awful, they’re inadequate.

“There is no stringent background checks at all.

“For example if you do not have a letter of good standing from the college which held jurisdiction over where you work, then you have the ability to supply a statutory declaration to say ‘yes, I’m in good standing’.

“For the most part, none of those are checked.

“They do a sample (but) you have to do it for everyone.

“These people have control over your children; that should not occur, everyone should be checked,” Jones told 7.30 program.

Although, in 2015 AHPRA strengthened its background checks for foreign doctors, but those new measures do not apply retrospectively.

  • In 2004, Dr Taylor (Mehta) was charged in Texas over allegations he groomed a 15-year-old deaf girl for sex online.

It was alleged he attempted to meet the young girl, with condoms in his possession, but was instead met by a police officer and charged with the criminal solicitation of a minor to commit sexual assault of a child. This offence could have got him ten years in jail.

  • But Dr Taylor (Mehta) skipped bail of $US100,000 from his parents, and fled to New Zealand in 2005.
  • In 2007, he changed his name to Dr Robert Taylor by a deed poll,
  • became a New Zealand citizen in 2008 and then
  • In 2009, Dr Taylor (Mehta) came to Australia on a Trans-Tasman New Zealand visa and
  • started practicing in Western Australia and NSW before
  • Joining as a radiologist in 2014 with Goulburn Valley Imaging Group in Shepparton, Victoria.

It was in Shepparton that Dr Taylor (Mehta) was found to have forged signatures on medical accreditation documents to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Radiologists.

After an investigation, his medical registration was suspended and Mehta was ordered to complete a mere six-hour ethics course, soon after which, he was readmitted to the medical registration board.

  • At no stage of investigation did Dr Taylor (Mehta) disclose his pending child-sex offence charges or his name change.

While Dr Taylor (Mehta) committed a criminal offence; it is also that AHPRA is culpable of very lax measures in checking credentials of foreign doctors, at the least.

Yet, New Zealand was quick to move.

  • In October 2014 Dr Taylor (Mehta) was barred from practising medicine in New Zealand. The Medical Council of New Zealand said that Mehta would no longer be able to work in the country.
  • In 2015, after his reinstatement in Australia, Dr Taylor (Mehta) joined as a radiologist in Healthcare Imaging Services in Perth.
@abc
@abc

However, the evasive honeymoon, did not last long for Dr Taylor (Mehta)

  • On June 19, 2015 Mehta had his registration suspended, confirmed by the AHPRA. It means he is now barred from practising in Australia.

A Medical Board of Australia spokeswoman said the board’s role was to protect patients, manage risk to the public and make sure only practitioners who provide safe and ethical care are registered to practise.

In handing down the decision, the State Administrative Tribunal of WA noted that he either knew or ought to have known the criminal history he was concealing involved “alleged conduct that was likely to raise concerns about the safety of minor of female patients” and “likely to bring the profession of medicine into disrepute”.

A former colleague of Dr Taylor (Mehta)’s, Dr Rauf Yousef, alerted several authorities to Mehta’s history in the US but until Guardian Australia’s investigation, no of the offices had taken any measures, thus, raising questions over the stringency of background checks on foreign doctors’ applications.

Guardian Australia also revealed that Mehta was had forged signatures on medical accreditation documents, including Yousef’s. This prompted Yousef to investigate Mehta further, bringing his name change and the US criminal charge, to light.

Yousaf also claims that he is aware that “Mehta left India for the U.S after facing a spousal abuse case under Dowry Act”.

It is understood that in March 2004, district Punjab police had initiated proceedings to declare a US-based NRI family proclaimed offenders in a dowry case registered at the Model Town police station in Ludhiana by daughter-in-law sometime in 2002.

NRIs — Desh Paul Mehta and his son, Max Mehta had alleged that they were the real victims and were being blackmailed through the misuse of the Dowry Act in India.

However, this information could not be verified conclusively at the time of going to print.

While, the United States Marshals Service for the Northern District of Texas has sought an international arrest warrant so Mehta can be apprehended and extradited for criminal prosecution; Yousaf fears that extradition of Mehta is unlikely, “because it was not among the most serious cases”.

Although it needs to be mentioned that Dr Taylor (Mehta) does not have any allegations recorded against him either in New Zealand or Australia, yet, t    his case has raised serious questions about background checks of foreign doctors.

Many local doctors believe that APHRA has failed in implementing necessary checks and balances, resulting in people of questionable character infiltrating the Australian medical system, as in this case.

Additionally, in many instances, local patients have reported in downgrading of the efficient cultural milieu of the existing medical fraternity, without extensive training to bring overseas doctors to Australian standards.

While there is efficacy in the questions posed by 7.30; yet the disintegration at the service end of the spectrum cannot be ignored either.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

feature image: @GuardianAustralia

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