20 May 2009

Surgeon, health board faulted over operation

8:23 pm on 20 May 2009

The Health and Disability Commissioner has criticised a surgeon and Tairawhiti District Health Board over a poorly performed operation for pre-cancer of the bowel.

Ron Paterson says all DHBs need to learn from the errors made, as New Zealand prepares to introduce bowel cancer screening, leading to more pressure for colonoscopies and colorectal surgery.

The case concerned a 62-year-old woman who had a section of bowel removed at Gisborne Hospital in late 2005 but who should have received more extensive bowel surgery because of the cancer.

The woman finally had the remainder of her large bowel removed almost a year later, after she had suffered a deterioration of her condition, partly because of underlying ulcerative colitis.

Mr Paterson says the operation should have been done by a specialist, not a general surgeon.

He says the surgeon's management of the rectal tumour was at the limit of his expertise, and he should have considered referring the woman to a sub-specialised colorectal surgeon.

Mr Paterson says the surgeon did not have the necessary credentials for this kind of operation, which Tairawhiti District Health Board considered to be part of general surgery.

He says general surgeons should be specifically credentialled as competent in colorectal surgery if they intend to do that kind of operation.

Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green says the board accepts the ruling that one of its surgeons provided inadequate care.

Mr Green says the DHB seeks to balance providing safe and appropriate care, while giving its clinicians the right opportunities to maintain their skills.