A former Countess of Chester Hospital Trust doctor who acted inappropriately towards a younger colleague has been suspended for three months.
The Practitioner Court Service panel found that Dr Krishna Batola, a deputy registrar, had made a series of inappropriate comments to a healthcare assistant, named only as ‘Miss A’ in the report, in September 2019 .
It was also found that he had touched Miss A’s leg and cheek in a way that made her feel uncomfortable.
The court panel ordered the three-month stay on November 5, in the absence of Dr. Bastola, who had attempted to appeal the findings to the High Court before the hearing concluded.
The panel heard that Dr. Bastola had already admitted to some of the allegations, as on September 25, 2019, he referred to Ms. A’s menstrual cycle and asked if she “never had fluid coming out of her unexpectedly” in addition to saying she that ‘some women suffer pain when their breasts are too big’ and she was ‘acting like a pretty face, just a pretty face’.
He also admitted to looking at Miss A and said words to the effect of, “I’m just looking into your eyes, you’re looking at me.”
The panel heard that Miss A had written a near-contemporaneous email to a colleague that day referring to the “first inappropriate comment”, when an X-ray of someone’s chest turned up.
The email said that Dr. Bastola asked Ms. A what she thought it was, and Ms. A replied “the ribcage.” Dr. Bastola replied, “Don’t look any closer” and Miss A noted two very pale circles and said “breasts.”
The email said that Dr. Bastola said “yes” and laughed, asking if he was upset. [for Miss A] like a woman to have breasts.
The court panel found that while the comments about the breasts made Miss A “incredibly uncomfortable”, there was insufficient evidence to suggest that there was any sexual motivation.
The panel also found that Dr. Bastola asked Ms. A if she liked him, but found insufficient evidence to believe that Dr. Bastola asked this while seeking sexual gratification.
For the ‘menstrual cycle’ comment, Dr. Bastola told the court that he was ‘inquisitive’ and was ‘writing an encyclopedia with a section on women’s health’, so he asked the question.
The panel found the discussion irrelevant to the work and a ‘highly inappropriate’ question to ask Ms A as someone the doctor had only known for an hour.
The court found that Dr. Bastola had also asked Ms. A if there were ‘nice’ photos of her on her Facebook profile, but it was accepted from Dr. Bastola’s evidence that he referred to photos that made her’ proud’. There was no evidence to suggest that she had asked to see the photos of her.
The panel also found that Dr. Bastola had asked Ms. A that whatever was said in the room when they were together, stay in the room.
The panel also found that Dr. Bastola suggested that Ms. A return to his clinic so they could “have fun together.” Dr Bastola told the court that he and Ms A had a ‘cordial and unique relationship’ and, in context, this comment was to reassure Ms A in view of her anxiety about work and the comments of her about colleagues. The panel also recognized that English was not Dr. Bastola’s first language.
However, the panel found that Dr. Bastola used “inappropriate language” when a submitted x-ray had screws in the patient’s foot.
Miss A, in an email to her colleague, recalled asking, “What are those nails for?” to which Dr. Bastola replied: “They are screws.”
Miss A wrote that she had said, “Oh well, pretty much the same thing, haha,” and Dr. Bastola replied, “No, fuck that’s what your boyfriend does to you.”
Miss A added in her email that she did not respond to the comment because she was “very surprised” but Dr. Bastola “seemed to just laugh it off anyway.”
The court found the comment to be an “off-the-cuff comment”, not sexually motivated, but “totally inappropriate”.
The panel also found that Dr. Bastola had touched Ms. A’s knee with his hand, which Dr. Bastola ‘did not remember’ but said he could have done to ask her ‘Are you listening to me?’ or offer you peace of mind.
The panel also found that Dr. Bastola, on one or more occasions, placed his hand on the side of Ms. A’s cheek in a ‘hollow’ fashion. He found that while what happened made Ms. A “uncomfortable,” she “didn’t have a sexual background.”
Other allegations made against Dr. Bastola, including that his actions were generally sexually motivated, were not proven.
Dr. Bastola told the court that some of his initial responses to the GMC stemmed from frustration on his part. He acknowledged that he had previously been critical of the GMC, the MPTS, its responsible officer and Ms. A. However, he stated that once it became clear that Ms. A had a different perspective on the incident, he felt nothing but compassion for her.
She added that the situation with Ms. A was an unusual situation, and that she normally does not discuss such matters with other women or nurses, and will not do so again.
He also told the court that he is a good doctor who should be praised for the fact that he taught Miss A new skills and therefore should not be punished. He stated that it is important that his name be cleared and that he will do whatever it takes to get justice.
The panel found the most inappropriate items to be comments about the menstrual cycle and comments about screws, comments about the negative aspects of being a woman, and touching Miss A’s leg and cheek. The comments were deemed ‘deplorable’.
The court panel noted that Dr. Bastola apologized to Ms. A, and that was a genuine apology.
However, he had previously commented at the hearing impairment stage that he should be ‘praised and not punished’, that he was a ‘good doctor with no ill intentions’ and that he was the ‘victim’ in the case.
The panel found that while Dr. Bastola had prior good character, the doctor’s perception of his misconduct was “limited.”
The court heard that while these were ‘not the most serious allegations’, they ‘still had the potential to affect the work of the clinical team and make staff members extremely uncomfortable’.
Dr. Bastola submitted to the court that society had “changed since Victorian times” and the court had not recorded that he was a vegetarian, “showing that he is a compassionate person.”
He also added that he would not work as a doctor again, since he had not worked as a doctor for the past two years and did not understand the purpose of the punishment.
Dr. Bastola’s registration was to be suspended for three months, unless he filed an appeal.