Fake doctor Zhin Sin Lee fined $13,400 for working while unregistered at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital

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A young woman who lied about being a medical intern to work at a major Sydney hospital for eight months because she was under “lots of pressure” has been slammed by a magistrate as “deceitful and reckless”.

Zhin Sin Lee landed a job at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital in January 2020 despite not being qualified after failing her final exams at UNSW.

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After working 126 shifts the 27-year-old was sacked in August when staff realised she wasn’t registered or qualified for the job.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority charged the Zetland woman with one count of not being a registered health practitioner but claiming she could practise on October 21.

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Interns are only allowed to work and provide public safety by “ensuring only health practitioners who are trained and qualified and practising in an ethical manner are registered” in a national scheme.

Fake doctor Zhin Sin Lee fined $13,400 for working while unregistered at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital

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Camera IconZhin Sin Lee leaves Downing Centre Court after her sentencing on Thursday with her lawyers. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

Magistrate Glenn Bartley told the court Lee was “well aware” of not being allowed to undertake the internship as she had previously declined an offer in October 2019 for the same role when she first failed her exams.

After then undergoing meetings at UNSW, she was determined to complete the course the following year and apply for the same role, however she again informed the university she failed six core disciplines.

The court heard she did not withdraw her application from the internship program and was offered the role on December 1, 2020, by NSW Health.

Lee confirmed her employment as a postgraduate intern trainee, of which magistrate Bartley said she “was nothing of the sort” and took advantage of a “flaw in the system”.

In December 2020 she was told her appointment as an intern was subject to obtaining her registration and she was offered a placement at Bankstown-Lidcombe hospital, which she accepted on December 22.

“In signing it she declared the qualifications she held were genuine,” Magistrate Bartley said.

Lee began her role on January 18 and worked 126 shifts as an intern until she was found out on August 9.

During the second month of her employment she was taken off the internship roster amid “performance concerns” and became a supernumerary intern, assisting where needed.

Fake doctor Zhin Sin Lee fined $13,400 for working while unregistered at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital

Camera IconMs Lee worked as a doctor at Western Sydney hospital despite being unqualified and unregistered. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

In April 2021, Lee returned an appraisal AHPRA form where she left the registration number blank, the court heard.

“Day after day of working shifts under false pretences … it was deliberate,” Magistrate Bartley said.

“She knew she had misled the hospital and was employed by reason of that deceit. The degree of risk without qualifications was significant in a public hospital in an imperfect system in the middle of a pandemic.”

In June she again returned a midterm appraisal form and again left the registration field empty.

It wasn’t until August where supervising doctors asked if the 27-year-old was registered and she falsely said she was waiting on documentation from NSW Health.

She later confessed she had not finished her studies in 2020.

“There is repeated verbal and practical dishonesty, turning up under false pretences, collecting her wage while unqualified,” Magistrate Bartley said.

Fake doctor Zhin Sin Lee fined $13,400 for working while unregistered at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital

Camera IconMs Lee was fined $10,000 and will have to pay professional costs of $3400. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

Lee pleaded guilty in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court in December without any legal representation before facing the same court on Thursday for sentence.

Prosecutor on behalf of AHPRA Erin Hoile told the court professional costs of $3400 were being sought and described the offence as “serious and increasing each day it was ongoing”.

“In my submission what she did was deliberate and dishonest,” Ms Hoile said.

Defence barrister Razia Shafiq told the court Lee was taken off the intern roster just a month after beginning her employment and became a supermentory assistant instead, but acknowledged it was a “serious offence” she did knowingly.

“She wasn’t under the guidance of others or making her own decisions, it was discovered in early February she was under performing and was put under the supervision of others, “ Ms Shafiq said.

However magistrate Bartley slammed the young woman saying any error could have resulted in a “worst case scenario”.

The court heard Lee had left registration numbers “blank”, which wasn’t picked up by the hospital in any of the forms.

“So we’re blaming the hospital?” Magistrate Bartley quipped.

“Are we going to blame the victim? It was in the middle of this pandemic, where staffing is already very widely stretched.”

The court heard Lee had accepted responsibility for her offending and “realised the risk” she put on patients and staff.

Fake doctor Zhin Sin Lee fined $13,400 for working while unregistered at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital

Camera IconMs Lee was apologetic for her offending. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

She claimed she was confused as to “why” she had received the offer of the internship but Magistrate Bartley said her evidence was not believable.

“She put her own interests ahead of the patients, she knew she was risking their welfare” the magistrate said.

Lee was convicted, fined $10,000 and has been ordered to pay professional costs of $3400 to AHPRA.

She was also sentenced to two years imprisonment to be served in the community by way of Intensive Corrections Order.

Outside court Lee’s solicitor Chadi Irani said his client was “very remorseful and very sorry” but conceded the young hopeful would never be a doctor.

“She’s lost a lot in the process but his honour took it all into account,” Mr Irani said.

The 27-year-old said she apologised for what she did but was under immense pressure from her family, who paid more than $348,000 for her degree from Malaysia.

“There’s a lot of factors that come into it but I apologise and feel really sorry,” she said.

This is the first time a term of imprisonment has been imposed for a charge of this kind under the national law.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher and Chair of the Medical Board of Australia Dr Anne Tonkin both welcomed the outcome.

“AHPRA and the Board protect the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably qualified and fit to practise can be registered,” Mr Flecter said.

“We will not hold back prosecuting those who claim to be qualified to practice when they are not registered.’

Dr Tonkin said: “Jeopardising public safety and violating the public trust in medical practitioners will not be tolerated. This outcome should send a strong deterrent to anyone who thinks they can get away with practising medicine without being qualified and registered.”

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