Suspended surgeon remains on full pay

22:30, Oct 14 2012

A Wairau Hospital doctor suspended five months ago after a patient died unexpectedly during a procedure remains on full pay.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has also been providing locum cover for the stood down doctor since the death in May.

The board's locum cover costs in general surgery, obtained under the Official Information Act, for May to September were $128,284.

However, the board would not reveal how many locums worked during that time to protect the privacy of the "small number of people" involved.

The board refused to comment on any aspect of the operation, a stance it held when the patient died in May.

At that time, the board started a "sentinel event" investigation into the death, which was also referred to the coroner.


Neither investigation has been completed.

Health boards are required to provide annual reports on serious and sentinel events to the Health Quality and Safety Commission.

Serious and sentinel events are incidents that have generally resulted in harm to patients.

A serious event is one that has led to significant additional treatment and a sentinel event is life threatening or has led to an unexpected death or major loss of function.

Board secretary Mike Cummins said the suspended doctor would remain on full pay pending "completion of investigation". The board would not clarify which investigation.

However, locum cover would continue until that time to ensure ongoing delivery of elective and acute surgical services at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim, Mr Cummins said.

This is the second investigation the Express is aware of being conducted into a sentinel event at Wairau Hospital this year.

A patient had to be taken back to surgery in July after a swab was left inside her during an earlier operation.

Board chief medical officer Heather McPherson said at the time that a "robust internal investigation" was being conducted to find out how the swab had been left inside the woman.

It would also look at how to prevent the same thing happening to another patient, she said.

The Marlborough Express