Patient death probe ends

BLAIR ENSOR AND HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 08:52 15/05/2014
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REST IN PEACE: Jim Nicholls, who died during surgery in Blenheim in December 2012.
Mike Parry
DEREK FLYNN/Marlborough Express
NO CHARGES: Former Wairau Hospital general surgeon  Mike Parry.

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Police have concluded a criminal investigation into the death of a patient at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim and have decided not to lay charges.

Zimbabwe-born doctor Michael Parry stood down from his post at the hospital after the death of Jim Nicholls, 81, during surgery to repair a hernia and remove his gall bladder in May 2012. Parry was on paid leave until he resigned in May last year.

Another patient, Rachel Riddell, 31, died of blood loss in January 2011 after Parry removed her gall bladder.

A coroner's inquiry into the two deaths was put on hold in December 2012 when police launched their own investigation into one of the deaths, to determine whether there was any "liability or culpability".

The deaths, along with surgeries Parry performed on Angie Webber, 28, a 37-year-old Upper Hutt woman and a third patient also came under scrutiny during the police inquiry.

In a statement yesterday, police said their investigation file had been independently reviewed by the Tasman crown solicitor, who concluded the evidence gathered did not reach the threshold for prosecution and no charges would be laid.

"Police would like to thank those who have contributed to what has been a lengthy and thorough investigation."

The matter had been referred to the coroner, the statement said.

Webber said last night that she felt "let down and angry" after the announcement.

"I feel like justice wasn't served on him [Parry]," she said.

Riddell's sister Lynn Weir said she was shocked to learn charges would not be laid.

"I'm quite horrified it's taken them [so long] to decide. I think it's a horrific and I'm a bit dumbfounded to be honest."

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board had a lot to answer for because it was "fully informed after each of those misadventures" but allowed Parry to keep operating, Weir said.

Nicholls' son Paul could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Former nurse Adrien Pitcon-Mason, who advocated for the surviving patients families, said the decision was sad, but not surprising.

"It is quite a rare thing for a doctor to be charged. We are just happy that he no longer works in Marlborough."

Pitcon-Mason said she understood Parry no longer held a medical certificate and could not practise in New Zealand.

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"It is not a witch-hunt for the man. He has resigned from his post. We wanted the Nelson Marlborough public to be given a choice on a person who had three failure rates within three months of each other on the same procedures."

In the course of their inquiry, police received information from the Nelson Marlborough and Canterbury district health boards, the Medical Council and the Health and Disability Commissioner. A surgeon in Hamilton also provided them with an independent report on Nicholls' operation.

Findings of separate investigations by the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Medical Council are yet to be made public.

Parry moved to New Zealand in April 2010 after working in hospitals in South Africa, England and Abu Dhabi.

He was not at his home in Blenheim last night and his lawyer, Rebecca Scott, could not be reached for comment.

Separate inquests into the deaths of Nicholls and Riddell had been on hold until the police investigation concluded. Both will now proceed at coroner's courts likely to be in Nelson and Wellington.

- The Marlborough Express

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