Almost every day we get asked by potential candidates about our recruitment process. We get asked why we check references at such an early stage, why we arrange a video call and why we get all our candidates to sign a contract with the company.
The answer is simple. Security.
Two recent high profile cases in Australia and New Zealand have perfectly exemplified just why we have to examine all of our candidates credentials very carefully. It can be the difference between life and death for a patient.
In Australia there was the remarkable, and frankly terrifying, case of Shyam Acharya. Acharya stole the name and qualifications of a well respected doctor working in the United Kingdom, moved ‘down under’ from his home country of India and worked fraudulently as a doctor in Australia for 11 (yes, you read that right eleven) years.
Acharya worked as a junior doctor during his time in Australia, practicing in four hospitals in New South Wales. During this time he was described by former colleagues as “aggressive” and “highly defensive” whenever anyone questioned his decisions.
Despite living a life of lies Acharya resided in a stunning £800,000 home, and even possessed Australian citizenship in his fake identity. After being uncovered he fled from the country, and is believed to be back home in India.
Miraculously Acharya only had one complaint raised against a team he was in, and none brought against him personally. As a result it looks as if - remarkably - no patients had their care seriously hampered by his reckless, selfish and dangerous actions.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said in the case of our second fraudster, Mohamed Shakeel Siddiqui. He worked as a psychiatrist in Waikato for six months at the beginning of 2015 - having forged a State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Certificate Licence, and an American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certificate.
Speaking to ‘RadioNZ’ Dave McPherson, who lost his son Nicky whilst he was under the care of Waikato District Health Board, highlighted just how dangerous such actions can be: "Some of those crisis situations are literally life and death and you need someone that's well-trained, and genuinely trained to be able to sort out what's happening, and very quickly. If I was someone that had a child treated while Siddiqui was claiming to be practicing there I'd be very worried."
Siddiqui was recruited by the DHB by another international medical recruitment company, who failed to accurately validate his references. It has since been revealed that two of the references were checked only by email -with Siddiqui responding himself, whilst just one was phoned.
The call was answered by his brother, who also responded under a fake identity to help pull off the fraud.
Cases like these are why we have to be so stringent when we process an application. We know that almost all the medics applying on our website will be completely transparent, and we know that the recruitment process can seem time consuming, however with characters like Siddiqui and Acharya potentially endangering lives, we believe that you can never be too careful.
Whilst Acharya is, certainly at the time of writing, still believed to be on the run somewhere in India, Siddiqui has plead guilty to four charges including using forged documents, obtaining a licence by deception, and receiving a salary and expenses while working as a psychiatrist, at Hamilton District Court.
His only defence for his actions put forward by his lawyer is that he is a qualified doctor - just not a psychiatrist as he had claimed.
The medical sector is one which relies on strong leaders to help govern it. As such we would urge all medics reading this who suspect that someone is not as qualified as the claim to be to raise their concerns with senior hospital management. Cite these cases as examples, as a simple Google search could’ve quite easily seen the imposters caught at an earlier date. It could save a life.