‘Emotional, sexual abuse’: Doctor faces medical panel
AN Adelaide doctor “exploited” 10 female patients “physically, emotionally and sexually” over at least 15 years at one of South Australia’s oldest clinics, the medical watchdog alleges.
Convicted sexual predator Dr Mario Athinodorou, 50, committed “professional misconduct” at the Harbour Medical Services’ North Haven surgery between 1997 and 2012, a tribunal has heard.
The Cyprus-born doctor, a married father of four from Woodville South, denies “taking advantage” of his alleged victims, none of whom can be named for legal reasons.
His misconduct hearing comes almost two years after The Advertiser revealed the former obstetrician avoided jail despite admitting the aggravated indecent assault of three female patients.
Dr Athinodorou, a respected Greek Orthodox community member, was fined $6000 for the attacks, which happened almost two decades after he was reprimanded for similar misconduct.
A four-member Health Practitioners Tribunal panel is investigating if he committed professional misconduct, unprofessional conduct, unsatisfactory professional performance or has an impairment.
If proven, the western suburbs medico, registered since 1993, faces being cautioned, reprimanded, subject to new registration conditions, a maximum $30,000 fine, suspension or being struck off.
He denies breaching medical profession laws – except those linked to the previous assaults – and has failed to have the latest complaints dismissed. The Medical Board of Australia alleges various “intimate” gynaecological, breast, and skin examinations and procedures were done without permission, clinical justification or chaperones.
Documents further allege the women, now aged between their 20s and their 50s, were inappropriately touched, groped, kissed on the lips, hugged, made to undress or pestered for check-ups. The alleged victims reported feeling “sick”, “violated, “shocked”, “anxious”, “dirty”, “distressed”, “less trusting” and “uncomfortable”.
Some were teenagers and members of the same family at the time. One victim reported feeling an “erect penis” during a back manipulation.
The women, whose identities are protected by a tribunal- imposed secrecy order, gave evidence from behind a screen or via video link. The tribunal heard some suffered marriage breakdowns, drug abuse, mental health problems or suicidal thoughts. The board accuses the GP of bringing “the medical profession into disrepute” and not being “fit and proper” through conduct “substantially below the standard reasonably expected”.
The state’s medical conduct tribunal had “warned” him in 2003 about his “inappropriate behaviour” with a patient he kissed and hugged. He is subject to extensive “undertakings”.
In its 11 page statement of complaint, the board alleges a lack of medical “professional values and qualities” by: EXPLOITING patients “physically emotionally and sexually” USING his professional position to establish or pursue a “sexual, exploitative or other inappropriate” relationships ENGAGING in “sexual misconduct” or “abuse” through touching, behaviour, harassment or remarks about patients NOT prioritising their care, showing disrespect or overstepping professional boundaries FAILING to maintain community trust and respect, keeping accurate medical records or recommending unnecessary services.
Emily Telfer SC, for the board, told the tribunal it was a “specific kind of behaviour”.
She said: “Ultimately it is the tribunal (that) will ask itself: Have all these women independently fabricated it, made it up or have been mistaken? Or does the commonality of their experience across so many of them bear on that probability?”
Scott Henchliffe SC, defending, questioned victims’ accounts, claiming some had “made up” their allegations or “misled” police.
Dr Athinodorou has left the 1845-founded practice, which also has offices at Taperoo and Port Adelaide, but records show he is currently practising at Munno Para in Adelaide’s north.
He refused to comment but is expected to give evidence in November.
MISCONDUCT: Mario Athinodorou leaves Port Adelaide Magistrates Court in 2016.