Horror stories of rogue doctor mount up
Natasha Wallace, Health Reporter, smh
March 13, 2008
THE room was heady with anger and devastation as about 60 people, many softly crying, gathered to consider lawsuits against the State Government over the so-called "Butcher of Bega" in potentially the largest medical negligence case against a doctor in NSW.
As news broke yesterday of the arrest of Jayant Patel, the scandal of Graeme Reeves revealed more victims from when he worked illegally as an obstetrician at two South Coast public hospitals in 2002 and 2003 after the health department failed to run background checks.
The State Government is facing a multimillion-dollar compensation payout, with Keddies
Lawyers investigating about 20 separate cases against Mr Reeves, who has been accused of sexual harassment, genital mutilation and botched procedures on hundreds of women.
Yesterday, lawyers interviewed several tearful women after a public forum at Bega RSL.
The Health Care Complaints Commission received 25 complaints about Mr Reeves between 1990 and 2007, including three patient deaths. He was banned from obstetrics in 1997 and ordered to seek psychiatric help, but was allowed to continue practising in other areas.
The Greater Southern Area Health Service employed him as an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Pambula and Bega district hospitals in April 2002.
One woman at the forum, who alleges he sexually assaulted her, told the Herald that she ran hysterical from his Pambula surgery in May 2002 with her one-year-old child after he yelled at her for screaming in pain while removing stitches from her abdomen. She ran into a GP clinic and was attended there immediately, she said.
The woman, who has been told by police not to identify herself, said she has had continuing problems since he performed an operation to remove cancerous cells from her cervix at Pambula Hospital.
"I'm still suffering now. When I get a pap test I still bleed and I can't have sex because I bleed … It has broken up my marriage," she said.
Another woman, Trisha Andrew, 33, said she was left "black and blue", in agony and bedridden for weeks after Mr Reeves performed keyhole surgery to remove ovarian cysts at Pambula Hospital in May 2003.
Mrs Andrew said she was furious the NSW Medical Board had warned the area health service in November 2002 that Mr Reeves was working illegally - six months before her operation. He was finally sacked in mid-2003 and deregistered in 2004.
Gail Small, 55, who alleged he failed to diagnose ovarian cancer resulting in her having an emergency hysterectomy, said local nurses said many women had the "Reeves trademark".
Lorraine Long, of the Medical Error Action Group, said she had received more than 1200 emails, 550 of which she had documented as complaints dating back to the 1980s when Mr Reeves worked at the Royal Hospital for Women. He also worked at the Hills Private, Sydney Adventist Hospital and Hornsby Hospital.
A director of Keddies, Scott Roulstone, said individual NSW Medical Board members could not be sued but the board could.
Mr Roulstone said the Government could also be sued for any failing by its authorities to warn hospitals about Mr Reeves or properly monitor him.
The president of the NSW Law Society, Hugh Macken, said: "It's potentially the most numerous number of actions arising out of allegations of negligence from a single doctor."