The South Australian optometrist found guilty of tampering with over 400 glasses prescriptions has had his ban from the profession extended to five years following an appeal by The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA).
In 2020, the SA Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) found Ashok Bhoola guilty of secretly and dishonestly altering 410 prescriptions that his business partner had prepared at Specsavers West Lakes in Adelaide’s north during 2015 and 2016. SACAT banned Mr Bhoola for one year, however the OBA urged a tougher penalty, claiming the tribunal should have considered the protection of the public more than it did, and should not have considered the effect of the decision on Mr Bhoola’s potential employment.1
The scheme was uncovered when Mr Bhoola’s business partner, a fellow optometrist, noticed errors in recording eyesight test results. Assuming she was making “silly mistakes”, she said she felt embarrassed in front of her colleagues and lost significant confidence in her own ability. However, driven by her concerns, she began to keep her own records, which once reviewed, confirmed that the errors were in fact due to records being altered.2
the OBA urged a tougher penalty, claiming the tribunal should have considered the protection of the public more than it did
An investigation revealed somebody had “systematically” altered the prescriptions using Mr Bhoola’s login details and, despite his denial of any wrong doing, that he was the only person at the store each time the changes were made. 2
Following the initial judgement, Charles Hornor, Specsavers Director of Communications, said Specsavers supported the Tribunal’s decision and confirmed that Mr Bhoola had not worked as an optometrist with the organisation since the issue was identified.
“Specsavers prides itself on its high professional standards and our patient’s health and wellbeing is always our number one priority,” Mr Hornor told mivision. “We take issues like this extremely seriously and do not tolerate any breach of professional standards.
“As soon as the issue with prescriptions was identified in January 2016, Specsavers suspended the optometrist, Ashok Bhoola, and launched an internal investigation into the matter, with the assistance of a forensic accountant.
“Following the internal investigation, in March 2016 AHPRA (the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency) was notified by us and Mr Bhoola resigned and left the business. Affected patients were contacted to ensure their glasses were fit for purpose. Any glasses that needed replacing, were replaced at no cost to the patient.
“Following an investigation by AHPRA, the case was subsequently heard by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal which, after careful consideration, ruled that Mr Bhoola did make the alleged changes to another optometrists’ prescriptions and did so deliberately. Mr Bhoola was issued with a reprimand for professional misconduct and his registration was cancelled for 12 months.
“Whilst we regret any optometrist losing their registration and principal source of income, this was a very serious matter that put the welfare of patients at risk, and therefore we fully support the decision of the Tribunal,” Mr Hornor concluded.