Health fraud duo stay in jobs

Two healthcare workers who forged prescriptions for three years to obtain medication to send overseas have kept their jobs.

Joel Razon, 39, and Carlo Manlutac, 27, are still employed by Te Puna Hauora Primary Health Organisation on Auckland's North Shore despite being convicted of charges involving thousands of dollars worth of medication.

Health Minister Tony Ryall and Waitemata District Health Board officials both said the men's employment was none of their business.

Te Puna Hauora general manager Lyvia Marsden said the organisation had "put policies in place" to prevent further offending, and the Ministry of Health was satisfied.

Asked why the pair were still with the organisation, she said: "Why shouldn't they? Where else are they supposed to work?"

Marsden said the matter had been dealt with confidentially and she had no concerns about the way it had been handled. "We have not broken the law," she said. "All is well."

The men, who are brothers-in-law, used various names between 2007 and 2010 to get prescriptions for diabetes and heart disease medication for sick relatives overseas. The frauds were picked up only when prescriptions at a pharmacy went uncollected. When the patient whose name had been used was told, they said they had not requested the prescription.

The ministry took the pair to court, where they pleaded guilty to a representative charge of dishonestly obtaining a document.

Clinic co-ordinator Razon, a registered nurse, also pleaded guilty to accessing a computer for a dishonest purpose. He was sentenced to 150 hours' community work and ordered to pay $3535 reparation. Manlutac, the clinic's health and community support worker, was sentenced to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay $1124 reparation.

Sources told the Star-Times Manlutac was intercepted by Immigration NZ and had medication confiscated as he was boarding a plane in April.

Health board group funding manager Tim Wood said there "certainly" would be an investigation if it suspected the frauds were continuing.

It is understood a clinic audit earlier this year found a number of patients who had moved on or died were still on the register, but it's unclear if the pair used those names.

When treating patients, nurses at the clinic print prescriptions, which a clinic doctor signs before they go to a pharmacy. Wood said it would have been difficult to identify fraudulent activity if a patient from the clinic's books was used, and the script was signed by a doctor.

Razon told the Star-Times last week he obtained the medication for his father in the Philippines, where it was not subsidised. Information obtained from the ministry shows he forged prescriptions 18 times between November 2007 and March 2010.

He said his father needed inhalers and blood pressure medication for chronic obstructed airways.

"That's the truth," he said. "I'm just kind of scared, my dad's nearly died twice."

He said he ordered repeat prescriptions for his father, who visited the clinic in 2005 while on holiday, and that he had acted independently and would not comment on Manlutac's actions.

"To help my dad was the only thing I could think of at the time," he said.

"I just helped my dad, I didn't do it for business. "

Wood said healthcare workers were accredited by professional bodies that monitored workers. The ministry also monitored health spending to identify fraud, but he said Te Puna Hauora's board was responsible for employing staff.

Ryall said the employment issue was one for the ministry to comment on because it was "operational".

- Sunday Star Times


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