CANCER COVER-UP: Surgeon's fail leaves 1000 at risk

 

A REDLAND Hospital surgeon is under investigation for potentially failing to detect patient cancers, in the latest health bungle to hit Queensland.

About 1000 patients will be contacted and offered new cancer screening over a year after problems were first identified with the Australian-trained surgeon, but controversially hidden from Queensland Health until recently.

The Metro South Hospital and Health Service banned the surgeon from performing procedures colloquially termed scopes - endoscopies and colonoscopies to examine a patient's digestive tract for signs of cancer - when issues arose in September 2018.

An assessment found the surgeon had performed about 1500 scopes at the hospital from when he started the procedures in 2012, but only 450 patients, considered the highest priority, have been contacted and rescreened by different doctors.

Of those, The Courier-Mail understands 14 have been identified as having significant pathology, including missed cancers.

Metro South acting chief executive Shaun Drummond described the issue as significant and apologised to patients affected and their families.

"Metro South Health will undertake a health service investigation into this issue," Mr Drummond said.

"An independent expert gastroenterologist is currently leading a clinical review of the treatment of patients potentially impacted."

Although Metro South referred the doctor to Queensland's Office of the Health Ombudsman and the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency in 2018, in what is being seen as a gross oversight, it did not report the issue to Queensland Health's head office until recently.

Redland Hospital
Redland Hospital

Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield and Health Minister Steven Miles were only informed just before Christmas.

"I have asked the Department of Health to prioritise contacting impacted patients," Mr Miles said in a statement yesterday.

"I urged Metro South Hospital and Health Service to fully investigate this matter.

"I have also asked the director-general to provide whatever support and assistance necessary to Metro South to prioritise these patients and to ensure additional endoscopies and colonoscopies can be provided without affecting current waiting lists."

Dr Wakefield has demanded the rescreening of the remaining 1000 patients be fast-tracked and completed by March.

The Metro South decision to deal with the issue in-house, rather than inform Queensland Health straight away, was made under the reign of former chief executive Dr Stephen Ayre, who was dismissed in April amid a bed crisis.

Problems with the Redland Hospital surgeon are understood to have emerged after a patient he screened in 2017 was later found to have advanced precancerous polyps that potentially should have been picked up in the initial procedure.

Although the surgeon was banned from scopes in September 2018, an audit of his other surgical work found his complication rate to be lower than those of his peers.

The surgeon continues to be employed at Redland Hospital.

National health regulator AHPRA has put restrictions on his practice.