|Practitioner:||Dr Vukile Zauka|
|Charge Characteristics:||Excess breath alcohol while driving a vehicle|
A Complaints Assessment Committee charged that Dr Zauka was convicted by the District Court of the following offence, being an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term of three months or longer:
Drove a motor vehicle under the influence of drink or a drug or both to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle (section 58 (1) and (2) Land Transport Act 1998).
and the circumstances of the offence reflected adversely on Dr Zauka’s fitness to practise medicine.
The incident on 7 January 2002 which led to Dr Zauka being apprehended by the police was a dangerous and erratic piece of driving. It was very fortunate no-one was killed or injured by Dr Zauka’s conduct. When he appeared in the District Court he pleaded guilty. He was convicted, fined $600 and disqualified from holding or obtaining a motor vehicle driver’s licence for six months.
Dr Zauka was recruited by an employment agency to come to New Zealand. He arrived in New Zealand on 5 November 2001. His wife and six children were still living in South Africa. Dr Zauka understood he was to work in Auckland. Last minute changes resulted in him being placed with the Kapiti Accident and Medical Centre in Paraparaumu. The arrangements at the Kapiti Accident and Medical Centre were in a state of flux when Dr Zauka arrived. The Centre was poorly managed and eventually changed its management in mid 2002.
At the time Dr Zauka started work Dr Krivan was his “supervisor”. Dr Krivan was not aware of his new responsibility until “the last minute”. He had never supervised a doctor before and despite his best intentions and efforts he readily acknowledged that his supervision did not accord with the Medical Council’s comprehensive “Guidelines for Supervision and Induction of Temporary Registrants”. Dr Zauka was required to work extensive hours. He worked 6 days a week including statutory holidays. At this time he was living in a motel unit. Although Dr Zauka had daily contact with his wife and children he was clearly very lonely and struggled to adjust to his new circumstances. Dr Zauka is a practising Anglican. His faith is important to him and he greatly missed having the support of his church while he was working at Paraparaumu.
Dr Zauka’s difficulties were further compounded when he developed a viral infection in early January 2002. He developed severe stomach cramps and had a nurse at the practice administer buscopan injections (20mg). These were administered once a day for the three day period preceding his arrest. In addition to the buscopan injections Dr Zauka self medicated buscopan tablets. He had also self medicated valium tablets to assist with a bad dental abscess approximately two weeks before the driving offence. Dr Zauka accepted it was wrong for him to self medicate these medicines. He said that he took valium over three nights and that he only took one 5mg tablet each night.
On 7 January 2002 Dr Zauka went to a restaurant by himself. He drank wine with his meal. He recalls leaving the restaurant in his car. Thereafter he has no recollection of what occurred until he woke up in hospital.
The Tribunal dismissed the charge. It was not persuaded the circumstances of Dr Zauka’s conviction reflected adversely on his fitness to practise medicine.
The Tribunal’s decision to dismiss the charge was influenced by the following factors:
The Tribunal wished to place on record its grave concern about Dr Zauka’s gross lack of judgment on the night of 7 January 2002. In addition it considered Dr Zauka made a grave error in judgment in prescribing buscopan and valium for himself. The Tribunal accepted he appreciated his error.
The Tribunal ordered publication of a summary its findings in the New Zealand Medical Journal.