Call for criminal investigation into patient deaths
QUEENSLAND doctors who have been investigated by regulatory bodies over the death or serious injury of a patient could soon face criminal charges.
A report by retired Queensland Court of Appeal Justice Richard Chesterman tabled in the state’s parliament lists four recommendations to help fix the Queensland health system's complaints procedure.
The 48-page report came after medical investigator turned whistleblower Jo Barber revealed she had evidence of a doctor murdering a patient, a case of manslaughter, and others involving doctors with alcohol or drug addictions.
Ms Barber claimed the Medical Board of Queensland (MBQ), Health Quality and Complaints Commission (HQCC), Queensland Board of the Medical Board of Australia (QBMBA) and Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority (AHPRA) had not investigated the complaints properly.
After reviewing Ms Barber's claims, Justice Chesterman recommended that an experienced criminal lawyer should examine case files held by MBQ, QBMBA and AHPRA.
All files where, in the past five years, a medical practitioner has received a disciplinary sanction over the death or serious harm of a patient should be examined to determine if there is any criminal responsibility, he said.
Justice Chesterman also said any cases where disciplinary action had been recommended by one agency but not enforced by another should be reviewed by a panel consisting of a lawyer, medical practitioner and someone who has served on regulatory boards.
The number of medical practitioners on the QBMBA also needed to be reduced and other members increased, he said.
Justice Chesterman also recommended the regulatory bodies notify each other of complaints received.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said he welcomed the report and would seek advice about each of the recommendations.
"I take particular note of the need for legal scrutiny of cases processed by these agencies over the past five years and for a review of cases in which there was a conflicting response by the agencies concerned," Mr Springborg said in a statement.
"These are necessary steps to build public confidence."