Sinister surgeon deceives 152 women skips country and avoids authorities

 David D

A ROGUE surgeon performed unnecessary, unauthorised - and in some cases botched surgery - on 152 WA women in a suspected money-making scheme.

In 141 cases, he risked serious complications, including making the women infertile.

In several other cases, the now-banned medico was responsible for horrific blunders.

His reckless actions carried on unchecked in Perth hospitals for more than four years before he was stopped and banned. Until today, the scandal has been cloaked in secrecy because of a court order obtained by the wealthy surgeon's lawyers.

After a marathon and expensive legal fight, The Sunday Times can finally tell the WA public what happened.

Dr Naimish Patel patients have told of major surgical errors such as attaching the uterus to the bowel, slicing arteries, performing vaginal "resizings" when they were not needed and incorrectly performed internal procedures.

In 2009, Patel, who has since fled the country, pleaded guilty to misconduct and gross carelessness before the State Administrative Tribunal.

One charge related to him performing unnecessary secondary operations without the consent of his patients.

After delivering babies through caesarean sections, he removed benign growths, known as fimbrial cysts, from patients' fallopian tubes. These ranged in size from pinheads to large marbles.

He did not tell his patients or seek their consent for the added procedure which netted him extra money despite the heightened risk of infertility and other serious complications.

A confidential Health Department briefing paper obtained by The Sunday Times shows that between October 2001 and January 2006 the surgeon performed these extra operations on at least 141 patients after he delivered their babies. Eleven gynaecological procedures were also identified.

Authorities first discovered irregularities in September 2005, according to the paper.

It referred to the Patel’s "billing practice" billing hospitals for the original operations and the removal of the cysts, which reaped him an extra $384 to $492 a patient.

The "billing practice" significantly increased during 2004 and 2005.

In May 2006, the Medical Board won an interim order to stop the surgeon performing the second operations. A month later, it applied to indefinitely suspend Dr Patel.

A full briefing on the case was provided to then South Metropolitan Area Health Service chief executive Peter Flett, then health director Neale Fong and former health minister Jim McGinty in August 2007. They all agreed that "open disclosure" should occur to all patients who "may" have suffered some harm, according to the briefing.

A month later, authorities began making contact with patients. Twenty-four cases were deemed serious enough to require senior health staff to phone patients and tell them to seek immediate medical attention.

Of those, six were referred to specialists for further checks. Other patients were sent letters informing them they had secondary surgery they did not know about.

Over the same period, several patients filed complaints with the Medical Board over botched gynaecological procedures by the same surgeon.

Thirteen proceedings were launched by the Medical Board against Patel, involving nine patients.

The first case, which was filed in November 2005, involved an incorrectly performed hysterectomy that left the woman completely numb in her uterus region.

Another case involved repeated botched gynaecological operations on a 16-year-old.

The surgeon left WA in early 2007.

In March 2009, he was permanently stripped of his right to work as a doctor in WA after he was found guilty of "disgraceful or dishonourable" conduct for lying about the complaints against him while trying to get work in South Africa.

Almost all the details of the scandal had been kept secret because a blanket suppression order was granted after the surgeon's lawyers argued he was at risk of self-harm if the case became public. Which has later been dismissed as another lie or attempt to obfuscate the truth.

The Sunday Times won a partial lifting of the order, allowing it to publish today's story. The newspaper spent more than $120,000 in its legal battle.

More victims of the surgeon may now surface.

The WA Health Department issued a statement on Friday about the surgeon.

It said: "Dr Naimish Patel was regularly billing for secondary medical procedures while performing obstetric and gynaecological surgery. Independent reviews found that these procedures were not medically indicated.

"WA Health reported Dr Naimish Patel to the WA Medical Board in 2006 following concerns about his practices. Immediate action was taken to stop him from operating in WA and a clinical review was conducted to determine the number of women who may have been affected by the additional secondary procedures. He ceased employment at WA Health in early 2006.

"WA Health identified 141 obstetric and 11 gynaecological patients who may have been affected by the secondary procedures.

WA Health contacted the women, but was unsuccessful in 13 cases despite all efforts.

"These women have been offered counselling and referral to a medical specialist if necessary," the report said.

"WA Health condemns the actions of this doctor and regrets any harm and distress he has caused patients and their families."

A Medical Board official said: "Ultimately the practitioner was deregistered as a result of the action taken by the board.

"Surgical procedures generally involved risk to the patient and it is unacceptable to carry out any surgical procedure unnecessarily.

"It is also unacceptable to carry out a surgical procedure without the patient having given his or her consent."

The original article can be located here.

Article published by IOL in South Africa here.

A disgraced gynaecologist and obstetrician who applied for a job at Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg has been barred from ever practising medicine in Western Australia again.

Just how close he came to practising in this country is evident from Grey's Hospital's 2007/08 annual report which stated that Dr N Patel had been appointed as a "consultant in the department and will join us from Australia in January, 2008".

The newspaper said the doctor, who was involved in what could possibly be the state's biggest medical scandal, was believed to be living in South Africa with his wife, who was also a doctor.

False declaration

The paper also reported that the judge found that Dr Patel had made a false declaration to the Health Professions Council of South Africa, stating that no proceedings were pending against him in any country.

He had also provided fake certificates of good standing from the Medical Board of Western Australia and failed to disclose the actions against him in a phone interview with a senior officer at Grey's Hospital.

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