Sydney psychiatrist charged in sexual assault of 19-year-old patient

February 3, 2012

A Sydney psychiatrist has today been charged with sexual assault of a patient at a high-profile private clinic on Sydney's north shore.

As revealed in The Sun-Herald yesterday, the doctor - who can now be revealed as Dr Ong Ming Tan - had been under investigation by both police and the state's public health regulator for indecent dealings with patients at the Northside Clinic in Greenwich.

Dr Tan, 38, was charged at Chatswood police station this morning with two counts of aggravated indecent assault of a young woman, aged 19.

He also faces two aggravated acts of indecency by a person in authority.

The incidents allegedly took place in August last year.

He was granted strict bail conditions and will appear in Hornsby Local Court on February 15, police said.

He has taken leave from his private rooms while the investigations continue, and declined to speak to The Sun-Herald about the claims last week.

It is understood another Northside patient, aged 29, has made similar allegations.

The Health Care Complaints Commission and the advisory board of the mental healthcare company that owns the clinic, the Northside Group, are also investigating.

The chief executive of the Northside Group, Anne Mortimer, told The Sun-Herald it had taken action within one hour of being informed of the allegations.

She said the allegations had been raised before Christmas while the psychiatrist was on leave.

"We took immediate action," Ms Mortimer said. "We had a meeting within an hour and [the doctor] did not return to the clinic. He chose to take annual leave."

She said the matter was immediately reported to the commission as well as the clinic's medical advisory board. An internal investigation had also been launched.

Ms Mortimer said she was not surprised a complaint had been made to police because she could understand anyone who felt they had been a victim would be outraged and likely to take all available avenues.

"We take these matters very seriously and we are co-operating with all agencies," Ms Mortimer said. "We are keen to get to the bottom of all this. Our primary motivation is always our patients. And these patients are incredibly vulnerable."

The Northside Clinic has 92 beds. It is a teaching hospital for the University of Sydney and has a number of specialised treatment units that deal with mood disorders, drug and alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation, and eating disorders.

The Sun-Herald has learnt the complaints were made by a psychiatrist treating a 19-year-old woman, who was also under the care of the psychiatrist being investigated.

The psychiatrist who made the complaints had known the patient and her family for several years and is understood to have told police concerns had been raised with the clinic's management in early December. However, after two weeks of inaction, it is understood that the psychiatrist decided to contact detectives.

Ms Mortimer denied there had been a delay and said the clinic had acted immediately. However, the psychiatrist told officers staff had been told to "talk to no one".

The younger victim is also believed to have spoken to other clinic patients, who said it was "normal practice".

To bring the matter to the attention of authorities, The Sun-Herald understands the treating psychiatrist contacted the other psychiatrist's private rooms and was told he was on leave and being treated for depression.

A police investigation led by Chatswood detectives continues, and anyone with information is urged to contact them or Crime Stoppers.

After he was charged, the Northside Clinic "suspended" Dr Tan from treating at its facility.

Ms Mortimer said the doctor had not treated patients since he took recommended leave before Christmas, after the first allegation surfaced.

“We are very concerned about this development today and will continue to co-operate with police and other investigating authorities,” Ms Mortimer said today.

"Our primary concern is for the welfare of our patients how are incredibly vulnerable. It is very important that we get to the bottom of this and understand what has happened.

Source: Lisa Davies and Amy Corderoy, "Sydney psychiatrist charged with sexual assault," Sydney Morning Herald, January 23, 2012.


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