Dex drug doctor to keep licence, admits he was wrong

Dr Phillip Bird arrives at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal with his barrister Kerrie Mellifont (left).
Dr Phillip Bird arrives at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal with his barrister Kerrie Mellifont (left).

A SUNSHINE Coast psychiatrist is set to keep his medical licence despite admitting to wrongly diagnosing and drugging patients.

Dr Phillip Bird claims he was and is still "learning" about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and blames an error of judgment for incorrectly identifying the condition in at least three patients who he unnecessarily prescribed with the potent drug dex-amphetamine.

Until recently, Dr Bird was being investigated by the Medical Board of Australia for his treatment of five other patients, including a former Sunshine Coast police officer, who claimed to have suffered catastrophic side-effects from the drug.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard on Tuesday Dr Bird and the board had reached a "compromise" outside of court and those allegations were no longer being pursued.

Dr Bird was previously scrutinised for having been the psychiatrist who treated Anthony Thompson, the driver who caused the crash which killed five-year-old twins Grace and Jessica Hornby and their grandmother Denise Mansell at Woombye in 2009.

The Medical Board previously alleged the 46-year-old, who had been a patient of Mr Bird's for three years, was taking 5mg tablets of dex-amphetamine up to 12 times a day despite concerns being raised about his history of drug abuse and requests for excessive amounts of oxycodone.

That allegation has also been withdrawn.

Instead, the medical watchdog is calling for Dr Bird to be sanctioned for "unsatisfactory professional performance" in relation to three of his patients.

They are an 82-year-old woman with a long history of eating disorders who was subject to a "questionable" diagnosis of ADHD, a 51-year-old sexually confused man who was treated for ADHD rather than his depressive illness which later relapsed and a 47-year-old man who was inappropriately prescribed with dex-amphetamine without the relevant background checks having been carried out.

Glen Rice, QC, for the Medical Board told the tribunal that while Dr Bird may have honestly believed the criteria needed to diagnose a patient with ADHD had been satisfied, "he was wrong".

He said that while there was evidence of Dr Bird using screening tools and deliberating over his decisions, the information he had gathered from patients was "not sufficient to support a diagnosis of ADHD at the time".

Defence barrister Kerrie Mellifont said her client was well respected among his professional peers and by the wider community and had suffered "pain and embarrassment" from the "speculative" media reports about the case.

She said Dr Bird had "frankly acknowledged" his conduct "fell below the standard expected at the time (and) he continues to improve himself and his learnings about adult ADHD".

The tribunal has reserved its decision.

Under the board's proposal, Dr Bird would be allowed to continue to practise on the grounds he submit to a number of conditions including one to attend regular sessions with an expert "mentor" from within the industry.

Both legal teams have until March 29 to make their final submissions.


Topics:  adhd dexamphetamine

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