Grieving family slam surgeon, DHB

Last updated 12:00 15/12/2012

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The family of a Picton woman who died during surgery say they have lost faith in the district health board and never want the surgeon to operate again.

Rachel Riddell, 31, died of significant blood loss in January 2011 after having her gall bladder removed by Michael Parry at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

The Zimbabwe-born surgeon, who is linked to another death and two other botched operations, has not operated on patients since May.

Ms Riddell's older sister, Lynn Weir, said her family were still waiting to find out what went wrong in the operating theatre.

Ms Riddell had requested so-called bloodless surgery and had signed a directive against blood transfusions. She was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, though she had left the church, her sister said.

Ms Riddell thought she was going in for laparoscopic, or keyhole, surgery, but medical notes show Mr Parry converted to open surgery halfway through the operation.

She was dropped at the hospital about 7.30am by her mother, who had planned to return to sit with her until she was discharged later that day. "I think it was around 2.30pm that they rung and said, ‘Look your daughter's in trouble, she's in major trouble, she's dying basically'," Ms Weir said. She was taken back into theatre about 3pm, but died that evening.

"It's been very traumatic for my parents, you know, not being able to lay it to rest because they still don't know what happened.

"For me I want it over and done with, and I want to know what went wrong. But I also want to ensure that our DHB is employing people with good health records."

Ms Weir said she did not have faith in the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, which employed Mr Parry in April 2010. "They've spent so long coming out to the public going, ‘We have confidence in this surgeon.' Well, how do you have confidence in this surgeon and let him continue?"

Mr Parry was stood down on full pay after the death of Jim Nicholls, 80, who suffered massive blood loss during an operation on May 24.

At the same time, Southern Cross suspended his contract as an affiliated provider, and he stopped operating at Churchill Trust Private Hospital in Blenheim.

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

Police are refusing to confirm which death - Mr Nicholls' or Ms Riddell's - is being investigated.

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.

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Two women complained after they suffered serious complications during surgery by Mr Parry. Both went in to have their gall bladders removed and had to be sent to Christchurch Hospital for follow-up care.

Ms Riddell's family laid a complaint with the health and disability commissioner in May last year.

Nelson Marlborough DHB chief medical officer Heather McPherson said service at Wairau Hospital was of a "good standard" and patient safety was the highest priority. Fairfax NZ

- The Nelson Mail

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