Surgeon linked to deaths

FAIRFAX REPORTERS
Last updated 07:27 10/12/2012
Jim Nicholls
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BOTCHED OP: Jim Nicholls, 80, suffered massive blood loss during an operation by Michael Parry.
Angie Webber
SUPPLIED
SCARS: Angie Webber shows the scars from her botched keyhole surgery.

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Police investigating the "culpability" of a Wairau Hospital surgeon after one of his patients died during an operation will interview other hospital staff, a police spokeswoman says.

The surgeon, Michael Parry, is also linked to another death and two other botched operations.

However, police are only investigating one of the deaths.

Tasman District police communications manager Barbara Dunn said yesterday she didn't know how long the investigation would take because they had to speak to a "wide range of people".

Mr Parry was stood down on full pay from Wairau Hospital after Jim Nicholls, 80, suffered massive blood loss during an operation on May 24.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has been providing locum cover since then.

The victim of one botched surgery believes Mr Parry should never be allowed to operate again.

A coroner asked police to investigate Mr Nicholls' death, and that of Picton woman Rachel Riddell, 31, who died of significant blood loss in January 2011 after an operation performed by Mr Parry.

After she met police on Friday, coroner Carla na Nagara put her inquiry on hold while police pursue their own investigation.

Detective Inspector Geoff Jago said police were making further inquiries into one of the deaths to determine if there was any "liability or culpability". Police would not confirm which of the deaths they were investigating.

As well as the police inquiry, the Medical Council is investigating other complaints against Mr Parry that were referred to it by the health and disability commissioner.

Zimbabwe-born Mr Parry moved to New Zealand in April 2010. He told Fairfax on Friday: "This is an ongoing investigation. There are patient privacy issues at stake so it's just not appropriate for me to comment at this time."

Paul Nicholls said his father went in for surgery for a hernia and to have his gall bladder removed. His death during surgery shocked the family.

"Nobody wants to have one of their family . . . finish their days on an operating table like that," he said. "In light of prior incidents, there should be some serious consideration of what his future role as a surgeon should be."

Fairfax has also spoken to two women who suffered serious complications during surgery by Mr Parry and had to be sent to Christchurch Hospital for follow-up care.

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Their complaints to the health and disability commissioner were referred to the Medical Council, which in March ordered Mr Parry to undergo a performance assessment.

They both said police had told them they were looking at their complaints as part of their investigation.

One of the women, Angie Webber, 26, counts herself "lucky to be alive" after going to Wairau Hospital in December 2010 to have her gall bladder removed.

The single mother from Picton said Mr Parry told her it was straightforward keyhole surgery and she would be back at work within a week.

"The chances of anything happening were 1 in 3000. ‘You're more likely to get hit by a car', I remember him saying that."

When she woke up after the operation, her mother was standing over her crying. "I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, what's wrong?"'

During surgery, her bile duct was damaged. Mr Parry ended the operation, leaving her gall bladder in position.

Miss Webber was transferred to Christchurch Hospital, where her abdomen was found to be full of bile. A specialist performed open surgery to repair the damage.

A 36-year-old Upper Hutt woman also suffered complications during an operation to remove her gall bladder in February last year. She also needed further treatment in Christchurch.

Mr Parry is still employed by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, but locums have been contracted to cover his workload.

Fairfax NZ

- The Marlborough Express

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