Nurse killed patients who complained about her

A nurse who allegedly murdered 2 elderly patients and assaulted a third after two of them made complaints against her at a northern NSW nursing home, police allege.

Registered Nurse Megan HAINES, 46, had been working at St Andrews Village at Ballina for two months when she allegedly injected unscheduled insulin dosages to Isobella SPENCER, 77, and Marie DARRAGH, 82, during the night of May 10 or early on May 11, 2014.

Mrs SPENCER and Mrs DARRAGH died shortly after they were found unconscious by other nurses on May 11.

Police allege the surviving victim, 88, survived because she woke as RN HAINES tried to inject her with an unscheduled and unnecessary dose.  Police said the injections to the arms were the only injuries the patients suffered and it was not known if the victims were diabetic or required insulin.

Detective Superintendent Michael Willing of the Homicide Squad said police would allege RN HAINES injected the women after they lodged complaints against her.

RN HAINES will be charged with two counts of murder and one of assault shortly after she arrives in Sydney late on Tuesday night.

Detective Superintendent Willing said Ms Haines had been a suspect since early in the investigation.  “We had a good idea of what occurred and were waiting for further forensic accounts,” he said.  According to police, RN HAINES did not return to work after the deaths. She resigned a few days later.

RN HAINES’ registration as a nurse includes a note the she is required to submit performance reviews from her managers to the registry office every six months, for 18 months.

RN HAINES was arrested on Monday in the Victorian coastal town of Seaspray about 11:00.  Warrants were issued for her arrest by the NSW Homicide Squad late last week.  She was remanded into Victorian police custody overnight before NSW Police successfully applied for her extradition at a court hearing on Tuesday morning.

RN HAINES has not requested bail and will face court again on Wednesday morning.


Over 1,000 U.S. veterans killed by disastrously inept VA hospital system

WASHINGTON DC:  A newly issued report by a U.S. senator found that more than 1,000 U.S. veterans likely died in the past decade because of malpractice in regard to a lack of proper and timely care from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) medical centers.

The report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., himself a physician, “aggregates government investigations and media reports to trace a history of fraudulent scheduling practices, budget mismanagement, insufficient oversight and lack of accountability that have led to the current controversy plaguing the VA”, CNN reported.

CNN was the first to break the story that some U.S. military veterans had died after being placed on a “secret waiting list” at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Poor management is costing billions

The VA has since admitted that 23 patients died awaiting care that was delayed months, but Coburn’s report titled “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay and Dismay at the VA” reveals that many more deaths have been linked to system-wide failures at VA hospitals and clinics all over the country.

Coburn stated that if the VA’s budget had been handled properly and the correct management put in place, many of those deaths could have been avoided.

“Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance”, Coburn, who has survived three bouts with cancer, said.  He believes the government should offer veterans access to private-sector hospitals and clinics.

“Poor management is costing the department billions of dollars more and compromising veterans’ access to medical care,” he said.

Malpractice suits, office remodeling, bonuses

Coburn’s office said that the VA has allocated some $20 billion since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to a number of non-health-related projects, such as office remodels, unused software licenses, undocumented government debit card purchases, the funding of call centers that received just 2.4 calls per day on average and bonuses for top officials, including administrators of the facilities where vets died waiting for care.

As CNN reported:

“In 2013, four VA construction projects in Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver and New Orleans cost an extra $1.5 billion because of scheduling delays and excessive expenditures, the report shows.

“Additional funds have been funneled into legal settlements. Since 2001, the VA has paid about $845 million in malpractice costs, of which $36.4 million was used to settle claims involving delayed health care.”

Additional scrutiny has been applied to the VA’s budget following revelations about the controversial bonus system payments; they allegedly created incentives for administrators and managers to hide the fact that patients had to wait months for care.

At a recent congressional hearing, VA Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration Gina Farrisee confirmed that 78% of senior VA managers qualified for extra pay or other compensation in fiscal year 2013 (fiscal years run from Oct. 1 – Sept. 30), despite the malpractice and treatment delay controversies.

Here’s one of the more egregious examples:

“Former VA Regional Director Michael Moreland received a $63,000 bonus in 2013 for infection prevention policies, for example, but the VA’s Office of Inspector General concluded that his policies failed. Moreland presided over the Pittsburgh VA, where an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease killed six veterans in 2011 and 2012.”

In addition, Coburn’s report identified crimes that had been committed by VA staff, such as drug dealing, theft and sexual abuse of patients. The incidents spanned the past several years.

Some names and positions might change, but the real answer — getting government out of the healthcare business altogether — won’t.

Coburn — who said he wasn’t surprised by his report — knows; he was trained in a VA hospital.

“The culture in the VA should be people working for veterans, not for the VA, [but] the culture right now is that I work for a system … and the requirements are so low,” he told Politico.

Schumacher medical records stolen, for sale

DOCUMENTS relating to Michael SCHUMACHER have been stolen, the Formula One star’s management says, with the thieves claiming them to be medical records about his coma from a devastating ski crash in December 2013.

“For several days stolen documents and data are being offered for sale.  The offerer claims them to be the medical file of Michael SCHUMACHER,” the German’s spokeswoman Sabine KEHM said in a statement on Monday.

“We cannot judge if these documents are authentic.  However, the documents are clearly stolen. The theft has been reported. The authorities are involved,” she added.

KEHM warned against the purchase or the publication of the data, stressing: “The contents of any medical files are totally private and confidential and must not be made available to the public.”

She vowed to sue “against any publication of the content or reference to the medical file”.

SCHUMACHER was transferred from a French hospital to a facility in Switzerland earlier this month after emerging from a coma.  He had been treated since 29 December in the French Alpine city of Grenoble after he slammed his head against a rock while skiing with his son and friends.

A police source later told AFP that the Grenoble hospital had last week filed a lawsuit regarding the theft of the data.

The 45-year-old was transferred to a hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne where he will be undergoing further treatment.

Source:  AFP

MEAG COMMENT:  This is how sick the world is!  Despicable act, and for what purpose?

Health watchdog ‘not up to it’

THE NSW agency responsible for investigating health complaints has failed the Hunter, a long-time campaigner for patients’ rights says.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s (HCCC) projection of a record 5,185 complaints by the end of the year, along with a 20per cent reduction in referrals for disciplinary action or prosecution, showed it was not acting as the state’s health watchdog, Medical Error Action Group spokeswoman Lorraine LONG said.

The number of complaints from the Hunter about health providers was rising in line with the overall complaint increase, but the number of complaints about the HCCC’s handling of complaints was also rising, Miss LONG said.

‘‘We’ve got this commission set up to do this job, but they’re not doing the job,’’ she said.

‘‘If my organisation can uncover serious failings within the system with no funding, and if we can run a group on the smell of an oily rag, I don’t understand why the HCCC can’t take action in a more timely fashion.’’

Miss LONG’s comments come after recent budget figures showing the HCCC was dealing with a 25 per cent increase in complaints from 2011, when it was forced to make public that funding problems had significantly curbed the number and quality of investigations.

The comments also come after publicity about the case of neurosurgeon Suresh NAIR, who was able to operate on patients at Nepean Hospital for five years despite complaints to the commission about his drug taking. NAIR was banned from practising in 2010 after he was charged and later convicted of offences relating to the drug deaths of two sex workers.

In its 2012-13 report, the HCCC said the majority of complaints about medical practitioners were either discontinued (57.2per cent) or referred to the Medical Council of NSW (20.4per cent).

‘‘To manage the high work load while meeting the statutory requirement of assessing complaints within 60 days, the commission continued the practice of assessing complaints that contain sufficient information without making any further inquiries,’’ the annual report noted.

Complaints about doctors included competence, illegal practices, sexual misconduct and inappropriate disclosure of patient information.

Cash shortfall hits checks on rogue doctors


The agency responsible for investigating healthcare complaints and weeding out rogue doctors is in crisis with new statistics exposing a dramatic decline in investigations despite complaints from the public being at an all-time high.

In 2011 the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) acknowledged it was so cash-strapped it was having to cut both the number – and quality – of its investigations.

In his annual report, the Commissioner, Kieran PEHM, spoke of a ‘‘very challenging year” involving rising complaints that were not being matched with corresponding increases in funding or staff, causing the HCCC to regularly reject public concerns – without even as much as a call to clarify the problem.

Forecasts in this week’s NSW budget papers suggest the Commission is no longer fulfilling its duties as the state’s health watchdog.  By the end of the year the HCCC is on course to receive a record 5,185 complaints – 25 per cent more than four years ago.  Yet referrals for disciplinary action or prosecution will have dropped 20 per cent to 110 – with actual disciplinary or appeal cases falling by one-third.

The figures coincide with a recent Fairfax Media investigation that uncovered serious failures in the HCCC’s investigatory processes which allowed the now jailed drug-abusing neurosurgeon Suresh NAIR to continue operating on patients at Nepean Hospital for more than five years – despite ongoing knowledge of his ‘‘severe impairment’’.

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDONALD said: ‘‘Complaints are on the rise, the HCCC is not being properly funded and this is what the people of NSW are left with.  The bottom line is, you cannot possibly have a quality healthcare system without a fully functioning HCCC.’’

According to its website, the HCCC ‘‘acts to protect public health and safety’’.  However, for many years, there has been evidence to suggest it is in need of an overhaul.

In 2008 the NSW Parliament demanded a formal explanation from the body over its botched handling of the Butcher of Bega case, asking why it took 14 years to act on a string of complaints surrounding the now infamous doctor Graeme REEVES.  At that time, Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian SKINNER said it was ‘‘appalling’’ the government was still not treating the REEVES matter seriously, also accusing the then health minister, Reba MEAGHER, of a ‘‘cover-up’’.

But today Mrs SKINNER occupies the NSW Health hotseat and is refusing to comment on a strikingly similar situation involving the HCCC, the Medical Council of NSW and NAIR.

It was not until 2010, when police charged NAIR over the cocaine-related deaths of two sex workers, that he was banned from practising.  In the 5 years prior NAIR destroyed many lives, though the exact number remains unclear.  At least one victim, Carla DOWNES, is still being denied access to the findings of an HCCC investigation into her own botched treatment.

‘‘The fact that Nair was allowed to get away with working for so long should never be allowed to happen again,’’ Mr McDonald said. ‘‘The problem is, there is another Nair somewhere in our medical system right now. Are we again ignoring the warning signs?’’

Mr PEHM and Mrs SKINNER declined interviews with the Herald.

Assistant Health Minister Jai ROWELL said: ”The NSW government supports the important work of the HCCC.’’  He said this year’s budget allocation was $12.3 million – an increase of $1.45 million since 2010-11, when Labor was in government.

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Butcher doctor Reeves too sick to return to jail, appeal court told

SYDNEY:  The Court of Criminal Appeal has heard former gynaecologist Graeme Stephen REEVES, who mutilated a woman’s genitals, should not go back to jail because of his poor health.

Graeme REEVES was released on parole in 2013 after serving part of his two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for removing a patient’s clitoris without her consent during an operation to take out a pre-cancerous lesion.

He was found guilty in 2011 of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Carolyn DeWaegeneire at Bega on the New South Wales south coast.

In December last year, the High Court overturned a decision to increase his jail time by 18 months because of his deteriorating health.

It sent the case back to the Court Of Criminal Appeal to reconsider the sentence.

His lawyer has told the Court of Criminal Appeal that REEVES needs to be on dialysis and cannot get the proper treatment he needs in jail.  The court has reserved its decision until a later date.

REEVES sat in court just metres away from Mrs DeWaegeneire.

Outside court she said she hoped his sentence was increased.

“The legal system is geared towards the perpetrators,” she said.

Commenting on reports that more than 60 other charges were dropped against Reeves last year due to insufficient evidence, she said:  “It’s appalling… it’s a slap in the face for police who investigated him.”

Lorraine LONG, an advocate for REEVES’ patients, said many of the women who complained about him have had trouble getting legal representation.

“But he has had a dream run with Legal Aid”, she said.
Former gynaecologist Graeme Reeves needs dialysis, too sick to return to jail, appeal court told
By court reporter Jamelle Wells

ABC Radio Updated Sat 24 May 2014, 06:25am AEST

MEAG COMMENT:  Butcher Reeves’ health a higher priority than the victims he butchered!  He’s got ‘the system’ attending to his every whim, whereas his victims fought for years to be heard and to this day have still not listened to.  Shame New South Wales, shame.  

Mistakes kill 60 hospital patients in 2 years

Sixty patients died in ­Victorian hospitals in 2011-2013 due to mistakes, while a catalogue of 75 other incidents reveals that tubes and surgical packs were left in patients after surgery.

In one case a patient died after surgeons operated on the wrong person or wrong body part, while five died following medication errors, the Victoria Health Department’s latest logs of ­mistakes show.

Another 13 patients escaped death after having instruments left in their bodies after surgery, however 5 of them lost the function in parts of their body at least temporarily due to the errors.

After two weeks of pain following elective surgery a patient was found to have a plastic draining tube left in their lower abdomen and had to undergo more surgery to remove it.  Another suffered an infection when a surgical pack was left inside them after an operation to remove a tumour.

The Department on Wednesday 21/5/14 issued death statistics for 2011-12 and 2012-13, but it ­refuses to identify which ­hospitals are responsible.

“Regrettably, adverse events and clinical errors do occur from time to time, with negative impacts for patients, their families and carers, and staff”, the report states.

“The department seeks to learn from these events to prevent them from happening again.  To this end, all adverse events are thoroughly investigated to determine the systems and processes that caused them, and to develop and implement preventive strategies.”

In 2011-12, 33 people died in Victoria’s hospitals for reasons that had nothing to do with their admittance condition.  Another 27 died in 2012-13.  17 committed suicide while in inpatient units.

Among other incidents:

  • Nurses crushed a patient’s antibiotics and administered them into the arm via a catheter, rather than give them as the prescribed oral pills.  The patient deteriorated and died;
  • A renal failure patient later died after being moved from an Emergency Department to a ward because no intensive care bed was available.  Critical information was not passed on;
  • Despite being ordered not to feed sandwiches to a patient with a history of choking on small food, staff did so.  The ­patient choked and died;
  • A patient died a day after falling from a bed and being found alone and unresponsive.
  • Another patient lost the full function of their legs after a medical team missed for a fortnight a build-up of fluid compressing their spinal cord.

MEAG comment:  60 patients only?  And the rest!  Why aren’t the hospitals being named?  Victorians have a right to know which of their hospitals are error-prone.

Doctors still failing to scrub up

The adage that cleanliness is next to godliness may not ring true in the corridors and operating theatres of Australian hospitals.

Only 66% of hospital doctors comply with appropriate hand hygiene, compared to 83% of nurses.

Not only are hospital doctors less likely than nurses to comply with the World Health Organization’s “Five Moments for Hand Hygiene”, but the more senior the doctor the less likely he or she is to wash their hands before examining a patient, local research found.  The study analysed data from Hand Hygiene Australia along with hand hygiene rates reported on the MyHospitals website.

Despite showing improvements since the National Hand Hygiene Initiative began in 2009, it found only 66% of hospital doctors comply with appropriate hand hygiene (up from 46%) compared to 83% of nurses (up from 68%).

A negative correlation was also observed between hand hygiene compliance and the educational status of the doctor.

Apparently doctors are often sceptical of hand-washing guidelines and believe “between patient” hand-washing to be sufficient, ignoring the “inevitability of touching potentially contaminated objects like patient notes, bed curtains, door handles, mobile phones and computer keyboards between patients!

No wonder infections are rampant.

Source:  MJA 2014; 200(9):508-09, 534-37

Rockhampton’s “Dr Disaster” suspended

Dr Antonio VEGA VEGA, aka “Dr Disaster”, accused of botching four operations in Queensland has had his medical registration suspended.

Dr VEGA VEGA has already been stood down from Rockhampton Hospital, far north Queensland.

The Medical Board of Australia said it suspended the specialist urologist’s registration on 9 May 2014 pending further inquiries by Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Authority (AHPRA) and the Board itself.

MEAG comment: The Medical Board and useless AHPRA only acted when the media exposed the malpractice… typical reaction.

Hep C victims agree to $13.75m settlement

The women involved in a class action against drug-addicted anaesthetist James Latham PETERS for infecting them with hepatitis C have agreed in principle to settle the case for $13.75 million.

The case had been due to go to trial on Monday before Justice John Dixon was told of the proposed settlement.

Dr PETERS and the other defendants had indicated they did not want to pay out all the women in the class action and then have to take part in a trial involving the one victim, but changed their minds on Monday.

Five of the victims were in court for the settlement announcement.  They were later in tears as they hugged each other at their lawyer’s office, saying: ‘‘We’re stronger because we have been to hell and back.  From darkness comes some light.’’

One of the victims, who cannot be identified, said the settlement meant “the end of torment and heartache”.  It’s done and it’s over and we can move on with our lives.  Money will help, it always will but it never really mattered about the money.  It was all about getting justice.”

The victim said PETERS’ actions had torn apart families, including her own.  She said the best thing about the settlement was that she and her 2-year-old son would now be able to buy a house and start a real life again.

There had originally been 50 women suing DR JAMES PETERS, CROYDON DAY SURGERY, DR MARK SCHULBERG (who hired PETERS as an anaesthetist at the clinic and who operated the clinic at the time) and the AUSTRALIAN HEALTH PRACTITIONERS REGULATION AGENCY (AHPRA) for damages for pain and suffering, economic loss and medical expenses.

The class action covered women who had been infected with hepatitis C during pregnancy terminations at the CROYDON DAY SURGERY between June 2008 and December 2009 when PETERS was the anaesthetist.

PETERS, 64, was jailed last year for 14 years with a non-parole period of 10 years, after pleading guilty to 55 counts of negligently causing serious injury to the patients by injecting himself with prefilled syringes of fentanyl – an opioid used in general anaesthesia – in theatre at the surgery.  He then administered the remaining drug to the patients as they underwent pregnancy terminations.

April 28, 2014 – 13:06
Mark Russell

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