The Tasmanian Health Service is considering options to provide additional information to Australia’s medical watchdog that could clear Launceston orthopaedic surgeon Garry Fettke’s name.
The Launceston General Hospital visiting medical officer was officially cautioned by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in 2016, against giving dietary advice to his patients.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said Mr Fettke, who is an advocate for a low carbohydrate diet, was being encouraged to continue his work as a surgeon at the LGH.
“The state government can’t clear a doctor’s name in relation to the federal regulator, which is run by doctors and by the medical board,” Mr Ferguson said.
“What we can do is potentially provide greater context about the excellent service [Mr] Fettke has been providing as a surgeon.
“I am aware and I am supportive of efforts to try to fashion something like that that would provide a wider context for the good work that he’s been doing.”
Mr Fettke’s contract expires on March 10, and he said he would not sign a new contract unless two letters, aimed at clearing his name, were provided to AHPRA and the hospital community.
His wife, Belinda, said they wanted an opportunity for AHPRA to reopen the case because “they might not have been given all the right information or the information supplied was vexatious, so they’ve made their ruling on something that was falsified”.
“It’s life-long and non-appealable so we can’t appeal it, so what we’re trying to say is, it was not the right material - you weren’t given the opportunity to have an unbiased view of what’s happened,” she said.
Mr Ferguson said he wanted to see Mr Fettke continue practicing as a medical professional, including being allowed to offer his patients advice about healthy lifestyles.
“I think all doctors should be encouraged to do that, and, of course, there are good boundaries around ensuring that we have really good advice being given to patients as well and I see no reason why any doctor can’t be giving healthy living advice to their patients, whether you’re a surgeon or a dietitian.
“I’d like people to be able to continue to practice their medicine and feeling confident that they could do that.
“As a government and as a service, we’re doing everything we can to show good faith and to work through those issues because I think there’s room for a win-win here.”
Mr Fettke said he hoped the situation could be resolved.
“I’d love to stay at the LGH,” he said. “It’s been part of my life for 25 years - a huge part.
“We’ve played a role in improving the health of the community because it’s well recognised now that sugar and the amount we’re having is detrimental to our health.
“My problem is that six years ago, I was too early to tell everyone.”