GP guilty of misconduct over racist limerick

A doctor has been found guilty of professional misconduct after she harassed a patient in an extraordinary series of emails following a complaint he made against her.

Dr Robyn Pogmore – a doctor of 44 years’ experience, the last 21 in Wagga, who is now retired – sent 11 emails to the patient in February last year after learning he had taken a complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

In a February 7 email titled ‘‘Who threw the poo?’’, Dr Pogmore wrote: ‘‘When the poo hits the fan, it goes all over everyone, including the person who threw it. YOU THREW THE POO. AND IT’S SPATT’RING BACK ON YOU. Toodledip for now, your dear friend Robyn.’’

The patient, referred to by the four-member panel of Medical Tribunal of NSW as ‘‘Patient A’’, said he felt threatened by the message and complained that other emails were racist.

In a February 8 email titled ‘‘Confucius’’, the GP said: ‘‘Confucius he say, man who makes waves get swamped.’’

‘‘Patient A’s evidence was that he believed this email to be racist and very inappropriate to his beliefs and to his culture,’’ the tribunal noted.

On February 9, she followed up with an email with the subject line: ‘‘tojours la poesie! (always the poetry)’’.

The email said: ‘‘There was an ethnic man named …., Who didn’t have much of a ….., But he said ‘‘what the Hell; I’ve an a—hole as well And I’ll sell it to you for a song.’’

Patient A’s original complaint went back to 2009 when he had asked for a print out of his medical records. He reported to the commission that Dr Pogmore had become flustered with the printer before she ‘‘threw scraps of paper’’ at him and pointed to the door, saying ‘‘go … you should go you idiot’’.

In June 2009, Dr Pogmore was asked by the Medical Board of NSW to write to Patient A to apologise. She declined.

Dr Pogmore also declined to take part in a professional performance assessment in September 2010 and on March 14 last year an inquiry was held by the Commission.

In her first email, five weeks before the hearing, Dr Pogmore, who was still practising, told the patient ‘‘you started all this’’ before revealing more in a subsequent email on the morning of February 9.

‘‘If you feel harassed by my recent emails, you will begin to understand what you have done to me when you reported me to the HCCC in 2009, and created the myth that I had thrown dirty paper at you, and shouted ‘get out, you idiot,’’ she wrote. ‘‘I almost wish that I HAD thrown dirty paper at you and shouted ‘get out, you idiot,’ then I could perhaps go down laughing when the tribunal sentences me to whatever – atrocity – it – is – planning at the court case on March 14.’’

Later that day, Dr Pogmore was asked in a telephone-based directions hearing to stop sending Patient A emails. ‘‘Notwithstanding that advice at 14.50 on February 9 [the same day] Dr Pogmore sent the following email to Patient A,’’ the tribunal noted. That was the limerick about an ethnic man.

In cross examination Dr Pogmore put it to Patient A that she had said ‘‘what an idiot you are’’ rather than telling him to get out. He denied that.

She said expressions such as ‘‘toodledip for now’’ had been used sarcastically and that her emails were not meant to harass or threaten.

When asked whether she accepted the limerick was grossly offensive, Dr Pogmore told the tribunal: ‘‘Well, rather offensive. I thought that, since then, that he probably was homosexual.’’

Dr Pogmore said she felt she had been ‘‘caught up in a rather silly situation, which is actually Monty Python-esque’’. ‘‘I sort of turned the tables on him by getting him out of the room when he declared he never left,’’ she said.

On December 19 last year, Wagga’s Daily Advertiser reported Dr Pogmore was retiring.

In its finding, the tribunal noted the advice of Dr Marcela Cox who had said Dr Pogmore’s communication with the Medical Board and refusal to take part in a performance review showed ‘‘arrogance, a lack of insight, a lack of respect for authority and an inability to reflect on her own behaviour’’.

The tribunal found the 11 emails contained offensive material and the limerick was ‘‘grossly offensive’’. It did not accept they were not intended to harass Patient A.

The tribunal made a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct for the 2009 incident and professional misconduct for the emails.

Dr Pogmore’s medical registration remains valid until September 2013.

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