A well-known GP has denied misrepresenting himself in his dealings with a patient who had been involuntarily detained in a psychiatric facility.
Dr Bassam Naser, a family doctor with a practice in Sutton, north Dublin, is facing a charge of professional misconduct in relation to claims that he attended a psychiatric facility in Drogheda to see a Qatari national on May 20th, 2018.
It is alleged that Dr Naser sought to force staff at the Drogheda Department of Psychiatry in Co Louth to divulge confidential information about the patient to him.
Speaking at an Irish Medical Council (IMC) hearing, Dr Naser said he had been contacted by the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland who had in turn been contacted by the Qatari embassy in London. The patient’s father, a Qatari national, was anxious to find out about what happened to his son.
The father did not know Ireland and could not speak English. The Palestinian ambassador asked Dr Naser to intervene as he spoke Arabic and had been a doctor in Ireland for 40 years.
Dr Naser said the patient’s father had “cried and cried and cried” upon arrival in Ireland and the doctor said he acted out of compassion in helping the man. The man’s wife was receiving treatment for cancer in Houston, Texas, while his son was in involuntary detention in a psychiatric facility in Ireland.
The father had sought information as to his son’s condition and when he (his son) might be able to return to Qatar.
Dr Naser said he visited the facility with the father and was “taken aback” by the attitude of clinical nurse manager Colum Butler who demanded that he show his ID.
He said he was “visiting as a human to somebody who was in need of help”. He was not acting as a psychiatrist. “I know my limitations as a GP and I know my limits. I’m well aware of these things. I was not seeking a diagnosis,” he said.
Dr Naser admitted he was left alone with the patient as his father went outside for a smoke, but he denied trying to make a psychiatric assessment of the man. He estimated that he was with the patient for only about 10 minutes. A psychiatric assessment would take a minimum of between 50 and 60 minutes, he explained.
He also denied that he ever purported to be a medical representative from the Qatari embassy. He explained that he had been asked by the Qatari embassy to help this family because the father needed to know what was happening with his son, but not as a representative.
He emphatically denied ever asking for the medical records of the patient. An accusation that he had been rude to staff at the facility had caused him “shock and dismay because it is not in my nature”.
All he wanted to find out was enough information for the patient’s father to decide whether or not he should be with his sick wife in Houston or his son in Drogheda.
Last year, Dr Naser was found guilty of professional misconduct over his failure to notify the IMC of a criminal conviction in relation to tax offences.
The GP, who is known as Doctor Sam to his patients, was subsequently censured and fined €5,000 by the regulatory body.
The Palestinian-born married father of seven, from Howth Road, Sutton, was sentenced to 16 months in jail in June 2018 for filing incorrect tax returns for 2006 and 2007 which resulted in an underpayment of €100,000 in income tax.
The hearing continues.