Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Delay led to more Hep C infections-court

56 female patients infected with Hep C
A Croydon doctor faces court accused of infecting 56 woman patients with Hepatitis C.

Delay led to more Hep C infections-court

More women were needlessly infected with hepatitis C by an anaesthetist at a Melbourne abortion clinic because the Victorian health department took months to act, a court has heard.

Carol Richards was the director of nursing at the Croydon Day Surgery where 56 women were allegedly infected with the disease by anaesthetist James Latham Peters.

She said the department first contacted the clinic in April 2009, to notify them that two former patients had contracted hepatitis C.

The department contacted the clinic again in June that year after the number of infected women began to rise but did not order blood tests of clinic staff until December, according to Ms Richards' written statement, tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

'There were a lot more girls from June 2009 to November 2009 that got hepatitis C that didn't need to because the Health Department did nothing,' Ms Richards said.

Peters, 62, faces 168 charges, including conduct endangering life and negligently and recklessly causing serious injury to each of the women he allegedly infected between June 2008 and November 2009.

His committal hearing has heard Peters had been addicted to the drug fentanyl, an opioid used in general anaesthesia.

The prosecution alleges Peters infected his patients after administering anaesthesia to them using syringes he had already used on himself, in a bid to sneak the drug into himself while under supervision.

They allege he had known of his hepatitis C status since 1997.

In her statement, Ms Richards said she believed Peters knew of his illness, because he did not seem surprised when she told him he had tested positive to hepatitis C.

She said Peters later admitted to her he knew of his illness.

'Jim said that he didn't want to tell me too much and that one day when it's all over he would tell me everything,' the statement says.

'I think he knows what and how he's done it but he's somehow trying to protect himself.'
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Ms Richards said she continued monitoring Peters' access to Fentanyl even after a supervision order was lifted by the medical board.
She once suspected he had been using again after walking into the theatre room to find him fiddling in the corner.

'It made me suspicious,' she told Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg.
'There was no patient there at that point.'

Witness statements from several other nurses at the clinic revealed their suspicions after seeing the doctor fiddling at the theatre benches and making regular toilet trips.
But no one recognised any discrepancy between the amount of fentanyl taken from storage and what was used on patients, the court heard.

Nurse Susan Rowe said in her statement she speculated Peters' patients were getting less fentanyl than required, because he used larger amounts of the drug propofol and because his patients did not experience itchy noses upon waking - a common fentanyl side effect.
The hearing continues.


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