The sudden suspension of a western Victoria psychiatrist and the closure of the Ballarat-based mental health clinic he ran has left his patients without a face-to-face therapist and concerned about their ongoing treatment.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) suspended Dr Praveen Thottappilil recently. It is unclear when the date of Dr Praveen's suspension was exactly; however his patients received texts advising them of cancellations on November 13.
His suspension is listed on the Ahpra website.
Ahpra provided a one line statement to Australian Community Media in response to questions about the suspension, citing a spokesperson: "Confidentiality provisions in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law prevent us from commenting on individual matters unless that information is publicly available."
Phone calls to Dr Praveen's former clinic, Australian Mental Health Services - Ballarat, were answered by a new provider, NeuroCentrix, who advised the former clinic was now closed, and declined to comment further.
Former patients of the psychiatrist also received a letter on November 9 advising them of the clinic's closure, saying "due to unforeseen circumstances".
"We apologise for the inconvenience and any distress that this may cause you," the letter said.
One patient told Australian Community Media they had seen Dr Praveen for years and had no issues with him, describing him as "one of Ballarat's decent psychiatrists."
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The patient said Dr Praveen's suspension was not mentioned in any correspondence from NeuroCentrix and it was left to the patient to make their own inquiries about why they were no longer able to see the doctor.
"Dr Praveen closing will leave a lot of people without supports," the patient said.
"NeuroCentrix will only be providing consults with their psychiatrists in Melbourne and will all be done via telehealth. I tried to make an appointment at another psychiatric clinic yesterday and they are booked out til mid-March.
"While it's great that NeuroCentrix has taken over, telehealth will not work for a lot of people."
The patient said losing a psychiatrist is a complex matter, because there are a number of supports the doctor also provides to clients.
"There are plenty of people out there who won't know how to access new supports. You'll see an increase in people being admitted to the AAU (Adult Acute Unit). Leaving people unsupported will not end well."
The clouded issue of the reasons for Dr Praveen's suspension troubles his former patient.
"If he's done something wrong, I think his patients deserve to know," they said.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14. Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
- Mensline: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
- Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
- Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
- headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
- Soldier On: 1300 620 380
- Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
- QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
- Family violence: 1800 RESPECT
- Veterans support: Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or openarms.gov.au
- Ballarat Mental Health Services: 5320 4100 or after hours on 1300 247 647
- For Aboriginal crisis support: Yarning SafeNStrong, 1800 959 563 (noon to 10pm)
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