Doc reprimanded for lewd conduct

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A former Monash Health gynaecologist has been reprimanded over lewd remarks to a patient and long-term sexual harassment of a midwife.

Rudolph Gerad Lopes, 50, was found to have engaged in professional misconduct by a three-member panel at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on 19 October.

He had made a series of sexualised remarks to a female patient during an internal examination at Monash Medical Centre in December 2017.

Dr Lopes wrote a letter of apology to the complainant, who reported the matter to police.

He was fired by the hospital as a result of the incident.

In March 2018, a female midwife complained of six years of Dr Lopes’s sexualised comments and groping at a South East hospital and his private clinics.

Dr Lopes conceded that his comments to the patient were “completely inappropriate”.

He stated that his “silly” remarks were an “attempt at humour to try to keep the patient at ease”, according to the VCAT members’ report.

Dr Lopes also conceded he’d been “inappropriate, unprofessional, crass, vulgar” towards the midwife.

VCAT members Jonathan Smithers, Dr Peter McNeill and Dr Angela Sungaila described his conduct as “unacceptable workplace sexual harassment”.

“From his point of view, the interactions have the appearance of being regular flirtatious innuendo, a constant reminder by comments, physical contact and texts, of his interest in having sex with her.

“From her point of view, the impacts were profound, both in psychological and practical terms.

“We also think it is relevant that the specialty practised by Dr Lopes is obstetrics and gynaecology – is one which calls for particular attention to the sensitivities concerning a practitioner’s conduct towards women.”

Dr Lopes had been suspended by the Medical Board of Australia since March 2018. In that time, he’d lost his private practice.

He’d been previously reprimanded over similar conduct toward a patient in 2015.

A psychotherapist’s report stated Dr Lopes was a changed man who’d gained insight and remorse.

In 2018, he completed a course on professional and sexual boundaries.

He’d also finished a Master of Public Health and been accepted for a PhD at the Burnett Institute on maternal health in the Pacific.

Dr Lopes was also part of the Department of Health’s Covid response team.

At the VCAT hearing, the Medical Board of Australia agreed he had been banned for long enough.

But the Board’s submission for the cancellation of Dr Lopes’s registration was “punitive”, VCAT found.

“We conclude here that Dr Lopes is now a suitable person to practise, subject to appropriate conditions, therefore we will not order that his registration be cancelled.”

The VCAT members found Dr Lopes had “paid a heavy price”. The adverse publicity made it “unrealistic” for him to return to private practice in the medium term.

“The whole process has been a humiliating experience for him.”

VCAT stated that Dr Lopes must be required to work in a supervised environment under specific conditions.

It is yet to decide on those conditions.