Source: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
SIX doctors could face criminal charges for allegedly killing and maiming patients in major medical blunders over the past six years in Queensland.
Several patients allegedly suffered unnecessary amputations and another was left a quadriplegic when a surgeon failed to detect a neck injury after a car crash. One patient is believed to have died in an operation later found to be unnecessary.
There are further allegations of patients being horribly disfigured by cosmetic surgery and of two children who suffered severe injuries when a routine medical procedure at a doctor’s rooms in a country town went terribly wrong.
MORE REPORTS: Specialists accused of charging different rates based on patients’ looks
A total of 23 cases were referred to Queensland police last week following the completion of an independent review by a senior barrister.
The review was carried out by former Fitzgerald inquiry investigator Jeffrey Hunter, SC, who reported to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.
Most of the accusations are directed at doctors at private and public hospitals at Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Gympie and Cairns.
The review was sparked by a report in The Sunday Mail in which Queensland Health whistleblower Jo Barber, a former detective, said serious complaints against doctors were often covered up.
Mr Hunter also confirmed Ms Barber’s claims that doctors with mental health and drug problems were permitted to treat patients. One doctor alone has been named in 11 cases of criminal negligence relating to surgical procedures including angioplasty, a procedure to widen blocked blood vessels.
Patients had died and suffered other complications when stents were inserted to open blocked arteries, Mr Hunter reported.
Speaking out: Whistleblower Jo Barber has named doctors she claims may be responsible for killing patients. Picture: Tim Marsden
A plastic surgeon faces accusations in seven cases involving ill-fated breast enlargements and facelifts.
It is alleged one woman was left with “pixie ears” after a botched facelift.
Several others were left with misshapen breasts in operations which Mr Hunter said likely amounted to grievous bodily harm.
“In each case, my opinion is that the allegations involve breaches of such magnitude as to potentially amount to breaches of criminal law,” Mr Hunter said in his report.
Mr Springborg said he had been frustrated that he couldn’t get clear answers to explosive allegations made by Ms Barber and others in The Sunday Mail and The Courier-Mail, which was why he had ordered Mr Hunter’s review.
He said he was especially disappointed by lengthy delays following up complaints.
“Yawning gaps in the complaints process remain unresolved in my opinion. Very real cases have been allowed to slip through the cracks.” he said.
“These matters are now in the hands of police.”
Mr Hunter said some allegations had been outside his terms of reference.
“In others, it was plain that although negligence and errors of judgment had occurred, the practitioner’s conduct fell short of amounting to criminal negligence,” the report said.
Ms Barber took her allegations of widespread medical malpractice to the CMC last year, prompting a review by former Supreme Court judge Richard Chesterman, QC.
He recommended further investigations of unresolved cases going back five years.
Mr Hunter said he had “cast a wide net” and examined 3318 files, which were whittled down to 703, and then 89. He said in his report that many files were identified that, in the end, did not involve death or serious harm to a patient.
“Many files related to practitioners who had mental health and substance abuse issues, but who were not alleged to have caused any harm to a patient.”
Mr Springborg said the accountability of the complaints mechanism was also on trial.