Inquiry into fatal surgery 'just lingering'

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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The senior detective overseeing a criminal investigation into fatal surgery at a public hospital says he will not be pressured into providing early answers.

Operation Wairau, which has spanned more than 13 months, was a complex inquiry the police were not prepared to compromise, Detective Inspector Geoff Jago said.

His comments came after patients and family of those affected by botched surgery at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, told The Press they were frustrated about the length of the police investigation and the lack of communication from those involved in the inquiry.

Zimbabwe-born doctor Michael Parry was stood down from his post at the public hospital after the death of Jim Nicholls, 81, after surgery in May 2012 to repair a hernia and remove his gall bladder. 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, are also under scrutiny.

Webber told The Press she was frustrated at the length of time the police investigation was taking and the lack of communication she had received from those involved.

"It's just lingering," she said.

"This has affected my life hugely . . . the least you can do is keep me up to date with where you're at."

Riddell's older sister, Lynn Weir, was among others who held similar concerns.

"We've heard absolutely nothing. It would be nice to have closure," she said.

Jago acknowledged everyone was keen to see the matter resolved as soon as possible.

"Police cannot compromise a thorough investigation by succumbing to pressure from interested parties for early answers," he said.

"Investigations of this nature are complex and the information gathered often gives rise to further investigative work."

He declined to comment further.

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

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

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- The Press

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