23 Feb 2023
A Victorian man who pretended to be an occupational therapist while treating almost 100 elderly patients has today been convicted and sentenced to a $4,000 fine after pleading guilty in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court.
Mr Charles Duku has never been registered as an occupational therapist and does not hold any qualifications in occupational therapy. In February 2020 Mr Duku falsely claimed to a recruitment agency that he had university qualifications in occupational therapy and health science and that he had years of experience working in occupational therapy. He also submitted a fraudulent document purporting to show registration with Ahpra.
On 28 February 2020, Mr Duku was offered a job as an occupational therapist. Between 2 March 2020 and 15 March 2020 he worked as an occupational therapist in three separate aged care facilities across Victoria and Tasmania. During this time Mr Duku completed over 100 hours of work and treated nearly 100 patients.
Mr Duku’s deception was only revealed when his employer discovered that the Ahpra registration number he had provided belonged to someone else.
Ahpra charged Mr Duku with two counts of holding himself out as a registered health practitioner, in relation to his deception towards the recruitment agency and his employer.
Today, in sentencing Mr Duku Magistrate Robertson commented on the importance of the registration scheme and noted that if unqualified people are ‘holding themselves out, taking jobs as registered practitioners, it undermines the safety of the whole scheme so the patient can’t be confident they are in safe hands’. She noted that the penalty was ‘necessary for public trust and confidence…. sending a message to… anyone else thinking of doing this’.
Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said: ‘Deceptive behaviour such as falsely claiming to be registered will not be tolerated.
‘Patients rightly expect that those providing regulated health services are qualified to do so, and this case highlights the importance for employers to use the national register when checking a health practitioner’s registration, rather than paper certificates.’
Occupational Therapy Board of Australia Chair, Ms Julie Brayshaw, said: ‘Although uncommon, this case shows that within the occupational therapy profession it is possible for a person to lie on a job application and falsely represent themselves as a registered occupational therapist.
‘With the continued growth of the profession in Australia, the Board strongly encourages the public, and employers, to check their occupational therapist is registered to practice in Australia.’
Ahpra keeps a public register of every health practitioner who is registered to practise in Australia in the 16 health professions regulated under the National Law. Employers are encouraged to check the register online to verify the registration of their staff before they start work, and regularly throughout employment to ensure their staff maintain their registration.