The Health Care Complaints Commission of NSW prosecuted a complaint against Dr Paul Cozzi, a consultant urologist before the Medical Professional Standards Committee (the Committee).
The complaint alleged that Dr Cozzi, in November 2015, failed to properly supervise a trainee urologist operating at St George Public Hospital, Sydney, in circumstances where Dr Cozzi was operating elsewhere at a private hospital at the same time; did not have appropriate medical records; and made false or misleading statements to investigators in 2016-2017.
On 3 November 2020, the Committee found Dr Paul Cozzi guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct on the basis that:
Failure to Supervise Trainee Doctor
- Dr Cozzi was responsible for supervising a trainee urologist (“Dr X”) operating on his patients at St George Public Hospital, Kogarah, Sydney (SGH). After his public list started, Dr Cozzi then drove to the Mater Private Hospital and operated on his private patients, whilst Dr X operated without direct supervision on 4 patients at St George Public Hospital. Dr Cozzi did not tell Dr X where he was going.
- Dr Wong, the expert witness for the Commission, stated that a supervising consultant must be available to assist in case of difficulty or emergency. Patient safety requires this. He was strongly critical of a supervising consultant leaving the grounds of SGH during an operating list, and particularly leaving to go to another operating theatre.
- The Committee was of the opinion that having two concurrent surgical lists is not acceptable professional practice. Dr Cozzi’s failure to properly supervise the trainee was significantly below the relevant standard.
“His conduct is reprehensible and it is only fortuitous that no patient suffered as a result of his actions.”paragraph 176, Professional Standards Committee Enquiry; Dr Paul Joseph Cozzi, Decision 3/11/2020.
Lack of credibility and trustworthiness as a witness
- The Committee did not find Dr Cozzi to be a credible or trustworthy witness. Dr Cozzi gave inconsistent and contradictory information about his conduct and activities on 12 November 2015. He made incorrect statements to the investigators on five occasions.
- The Committee considered that “many of his answers were designed to obfuscate and deflect attention from the relevant issues. He did not make a genuine attempt to answer questions in a frank or open manner,” paragraph 49.
Signing of blank documents
- Dr Paul Cozzi pre-signed blank count sheets and safety checklists for surgeries on patients at St George Public Hospital which he did not attend.
- The procedures for signing count sheets and safety checklists are designed to ensure patient safety.
- Signing sheets for surgeries when he was not present infringes basic standards of professional practice and contravenes the record keeping regulations.
Determination: Unsatisfactory Professional Conduct
The Committee found that Dr Paul Cozzi’s conduct was reprehensible and unsatisfactory professional conduct. He was reprimanded in the strongest possible terms.
The Committee ordered that Dr Paul Cozzi must be subject to supervision, must complete an ethics course and must not supervise trainees.