Perth: Specialist botches specialist’s op – fined $75,000

A DOCTOR, who almost died after a mismanaged angioplasty that led in part to the largest fine in the Medical Board of Australia’s history, has told how the experience ended his medical career.

Dr Gary Hastwell, a former WA obstetrician who had to give up his medical practice, also revealed that Perth cardiologist Dr KEITH WOOLLARD, AMA president from 1996 to 1998, had still not apologised for a potentially fatal series of errors during an angioplasty in 2009.

Dr Woollard admitted professional misconduct in relation to an angioplasty performed on Dr Hastwell and to acting carelessly and incompetently in relation to those performed earlier on a female patient which together resulted in a $75,000 fine and his being banned from performing angioplasty or stenting for at least 5 years.

Dr Hastwell was 69 when a GP referral put him in Dr Woollard’s care in 2009 with faintness and tachycardia.  An angiogram found several severe stenoses and a possible aneurysm.  Dr Woollard referred him for coronary artery bypass grafting.

But after Dr Hastwell asked about angioplasty and stenting, Dr Woollard did that procedure, which the Tribunal found was contraindicated, and without timely administration of an anticoagulant.

After a thrombus was detected in the left main artery, he also failed to call an emergency resuscitation team or cardiothoracic surgeon when Dr Hastwell went into asystole and needed up to three defibrillation shocks.

Dr Woollard later maintained the decision not to administer an anticoagulant until much later was a nursing error.  Yes, of course doctor, blame the nurse.

“There’s a credibility issue,” Dr Hastwell said of the delay.

“Dr Woollard said it wasn’t a thrombosis when all his actions and everybody else said it was.  He said it was a dissection.  Thrombosis is a clot; a dissection is splitting a vessel, which is a known complication, but he then said not giving the anticoagulant therefore had no consequence.”

Unbelievably Dr Woollard remains chairman of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand’s General Cardiology Council!  

22 July 2013

Los Angeles: Sacked for spying on Kim Kardashian’s medical records

Six workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, have been fired after accessing Kim Kardashian‘s medical records.  Hospital officials said the ongoing internal inquiry surrounding the breach occurred during Kardashian’s week-long stay at the facility for the birth of her baby last month.

This is a repeat of Britney Spears’ hospital stay at UCLA Medical Center in March 2008.  Thirteen workers were sacked after accessing Spears’ medical records.

Don’t these ghouls know that medical records are legal documents and every patient world-wide has the right to have them kept private.

14 July 2013

Northam Hospital WA death bungles continue

A 68-YEAR-OLD woman died from a severe allergic reaction to a drug containing sulphur prescribed to her by a doctor, despite 14 separate notes alerting hospital staff of her condition.

She was admitted for a cataract operation, but within hours was dying after being given a 250mg dose of Diamox.  The pill, containing sulphonamides, was administered despite the patient’s medical file containing at least 14 documents in which her allergy to sulphur-based medications was recorded.

A red alert bracelet indicating a patient had allergies was also worn on the patient’s wrist.  Within 20 minutes of being given the medication, the patient complained of shortness of breath. Within two hours, she was dead of anaphylaxis.



Previous concerns over the quality of care at the hospital, about 100km east of Perth, has already led to three doctors being suspended after five patients died following discharge.

In March, WA’s Department of Health said the three doctors would be referred to the Medical Board of Australia following an investigation by the state’s chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed.

His report pinpointed a lack of medical leadership in the Emergency Department, poor communication and uncertain roles in and between medical disciplines as major issues at the hospital.


  1. The hospital first came under scrutiny after the 2010 death of 16-year-old boy who was sent home with Panadol after the hospital failed to diagnose H1N1 influenza.
  2. Then more worrying cases came to light, including the death of 53-year-old woman.  She was sent home with medication for a headache after collapsing in July 2011 but collapsed again within 30 hours and died in Perth two days later.
  3. A 23-year-old nurse died after being sent home on 29 December 2012 with painkillers for a severe headache.
  4. A 12-day-old baby died in 2010 of heart failure after the hospital sent him home twice.
  5. A 69-year-old woman visited the hospital last June with a broken arm, was treated and then returned with vomiting and was found to have acute renal failure.  She was treated but sent home, only to return a week later, fall into a coma and die two weeks later.

All of those cases are also being investigated by the WA Coroner.  


‘Frequent flyer’ doctors trigger most complaints

A small group of so-called “frequent flyer” doctors account for half of all patient complaints, new Australian data shows.

It shows a small percent of doctors account for a large percent of complaints which indicates that patients are not running off to the lawyers or complaints commissions/boards at the drop of a hat.  A new study shows that most patients and doctors are reasonable people and the ones who are complaining have legitimate complaints about the few bad apples.  Doctors need to stop being so paranoid that patients are ‘out to get them’.

A SMALL group of so-called ‘frequent flyer’ doctors account for half of all patient complaints, new Australian data shows.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne analysed 18,000 complaints made to 7 state and territory health service commissions and found that 15% of the 11,000 doctors in the study accounted for 49% of the complaints, corresponding to only 3% of all practising doctors.

The number of prior complaints a doctor experienced strongly predicted their chance of future complaints, with the risk of recurrent complaints nearly double in those with two prior complaints, and 30 times higher in those with 10 or more prior complaints.

Professor Ron Paterson from the University of Auckland said the findings were an “albatross around the neck of the Australian medico-legal system”.

“No one with a passing familiarity with the world of patient complaints will be surprised by the fact there is a group of ‘frequent flyer doctors’ who attract a disproportionate share of complaints,” he wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

The authors criticised medico-legal institutions for remaining on the sidelines as quality and safety movements had risen over the last 15 years.

“They remain essentially reactive enterprises, with workloads that focus on dealing with the fallout from care that has gone wrong,” they wrote.

Study leader and author Professor David Studdert said the world-first study could form the basis of new strategies for improving quality and safety in healthcare.

“Finding a way to predict, early on, which clinicians are going to experience lots of medico-legal problems in the future is a kind of holy grail in our field,” he said.

“These findings are exciting because they open the way for agencies like health complaints commissions and medical boards to play more of a prevention role, rather than just picking up the pieces after things go wrong.”

“It can’t happen soon enough” says a spokesperson from Medical Error Action Group.

11 April 2013

Adelaide: BreastScreen SA failed to detect 72 cancers

BREASTSCREEN SA failed to detect 72 cancers between 2010 and 2012, due to reduced recall rates, a system-wide review into digital mammography screening has found.

The independent review, released 29/5/13, was conducted by Associate Professor Warwick Lee, BreastScreen NSW’s state radiologist, after BreastScreen SA found that 95 fewer cancers than expected were identified between 6 September 2010 and 30 June 2012.

13 radiologists reviewed 53,104 sets of digital screening mammograms and recalled 540 women for screening.

The review found 72 cancers were potentially detectable at the time of initial screening and 56 of these were found in the re-reading process.  The remaining 16 were interval cancers diagnosed outside the screening program.  The majority of the women who were found to have breast cancer were diagnosed in the early stages of disease.

The review found that lower than ideal recall rates were the major cause of reduced cancer detection rates, with reading practices and image quality also contributing.

29 May 2013

Queensland medical board sacked

At last a politician means what he says.  Queensland Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg has sacked the remaining members of the Queensland Medical Board and an interim board is now in place.  The remaining members of the QMB who had not resigned last month were sacked 2 weeks ago.

Criticism outlined in the Forrester Report, tabled in the Queensland Parliament, accused the board of leniency towards doctors and delays in processing complaints related to the whole board.

A majority of the members resigned last month after Minister Springborg subsequently asked all members to show why their positions were still tenable.

The Medical Board of Australia announced today that interim arrangements have been put in place to manage the work of the board.

A Queensland Medical Interim Notifications Group has been appointed to deal with notifications about practitioners’ conduct and performance and registrations will be managed by board and committee members from NSW.

Minister Springborg’s office said a replacement board for Queensland would be appointed by the minister and was expected to be in place in about two months.

23 May 2013

Marseille: PIP breast implant firm denies fraud over faulty implants

Lawyers for the French breast implant firm PIP have used the final day of a fraud trial to deny knowingly making faulty implants. The incident sparked health scare affecting thousands of women around the world.

In closing arguments at the court in Marseille, lawyers for the five PIP executives on trial defended the implants’ safety, and called for lighter sentences than the four years of jail requested by prosecutors.

The trial, once of France’s biggest legal proceedings in recent history, began in April.

The defendants, including PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas, are accused of aggravated fraud for using cheap, industrial-grade silicone in breast implants for 10 years.

The defendants are:

  • PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas;
  • Chair of the board of directors Claude Couty;
  • Director of production manager Loïc Gossart;
  • Technical director Thierry Brinon;
  • Quality director Hannelore Font.


“A large percentage of the victims had NuSil gel (a medical-grade gel made by a Californian company) in their implants,” Mas said. Mas reiterated that the gel used by his company was “not toxic or dangerous.”

News of the faulty implants broke in 2011 when doctors began reporting an unusual number of ruptures in PIP implants. But health officials in various countries have said the implants were not toxic, nor did they increase the risk of breast cancer.

More than 4,000 women reported ruptures, and in France alone, 15,000 women have had the PIP implants replaced.

PIP implants were soon banned and the company, once the third-largest global supplier of implants, was quickly wound up.

More than 5,200 women joined the class action suit, including around 220 women from overseas.

The month-long trial saw prosecutor Jacques Dallest call for Mas to pay a 100,000 euro fine and to be banned from working in medical services or from running a company.

Some of the defendants, including Mas, have also been charged in separate and ongoing manslaughter and financial fraud investigations into the scandal.

The court is due to deliver its verdict on 10 December 2013.

Article published the Friday 17 May 2013
Reuters/Philippe Laurenson

Missouri: Brain op botched

A neurosurgeon has been accused of operating on the wrong side of a woman’s brain, leaving her unable to speak or take care of herself.

A 53-year-old woman from St Ann, Missouri, filed a lawsuit last month against Dr Armond LEVY and SSM Health Care-St Louis, accusing them of negligence and carelessness.

The woman patient was due to have a left-sided craniotomy bypass but was instead given a right-sided one, according to her lawsuit.

2 May 2013