Queensland Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg
Police Asked To Investigate Six Queensland Doctors
Victor P Taffa
An inquiry sparked by a whistle-blower’s complaints ten months ago has resulted in six Queensland doctors being referred to Police for investigation into whether or not they have committed criminal offences.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the inquiry by Mr. Jeffrey Hunter SC would help shape legislative change to alter the way allegations of medical malpractice are handled in future.
The inquiry was one of four recommendations that flowed from the Richard Chesterman/CMC report into the claims of whistle-blower Jo Barber.
“These are cases that arose under the former Government, which transferred the previously state-based health complaints system to a national authority.” Mr. Springborg said.
“Mr. Hunter’s findings will be passed on to the Queensland Police Service, which will conduct investigations to determine whether criminal charges can be sustained.”
Mr. Hunter was commissioned to review complaints about medical cases in which patients died or suffered serious bodily harm.
From 3,318 files held by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, its offshoot medical board and its predecessor, the Medical Board of Queensland, Mr. Hunter selected and reviewed 89.
Mr. Springborg said that among cases reviewed by Mr. Hunter were examples of failed cosmetic and surgical procedures.
Up to 11 different cases were linked to one practitioner, and there were cases where surgery was undertaken where relevant symptoms appeared to be absent.
The included incidents reported from public and private hospitals, private doctor’s rooms and clinics located across the state.
Mr. Springborg said he planned legislative change to improve cooperation between complaints agencies at the state and national level.
“In this case the former Government signed up to a national law, but I am looking at provisions already enacted in New South Wales that allow for the modification of procedures within a State or Territory.” Mr. Springborg said.
“Mr. Hunter’s findings highlight the need to strengthen control and responsiveness at the State level.”
“As Health Minister, I expect Queenslanders to be served by an effective and accountable health complaints process. The Government requires direct feedback on the performance of our health system and accountable procedures for handling complaints are an essential ingredient.”
Mr. Springborg said a range of options for legislative change were being considered.