Dirty Doctor Death
By GREG CHAPMAN and DAN NANCARROW
VICKI Lester was shocked to hear Dr Jayant Patel rarely washed his hands before examining his patients' wounds, but even more shocking for her was the claim that Bundaberg Base Hospital management did nothing about it.
The Royal Commission of inquiry heard yesterday that the surgeon dubbed "Dr Death'' told nursing staff that "doctors don't have germs'' after concerns were raised about his hospital hygiene.
Bundaberg Hospital's infection control co-ordinator Gail Aylmer told the inquiry, on the first day of the Bundaberg sittings, that Dr Patel reportedly went from patient to patient and even unblocked the catheters of two patients with unclean hands.
Patients, nurses, lawyers and the media filled the Bundaberg Wide Bay TAFE's lecture theatre for the start of the three week sittings.
Mrs Lester, who suffered an infection in her stomach after Dr Patel operated on her in September 2003, was amazed at the allegations.
"The nurse is talking about it like the whole hospital was aware of the amount of infection at the hospital,'' Mrs Lester said.
"I'm shocked (the rate of infection) was such a known fact and they never did anything about it.''
Ms Aylmer revealed how she literally followed Dr Patel around the surgical ward with a box of latex gloves and how the surgical wounds of 13 patients reopened over an eight week period.
"Normally, people would wash their hands, but what I noticed with Dr Patel, was that this was not happening,'' Ms Aylmer said.
"He was touching wounds, pulling off dressings and poking around in wounds.
"I felt there was a risk to patients - I saw him touch one wound on one patient and then a wound on another.''
Ms Aylmer said she usually gave doctors a nod to remind them to wash their hands, but eventually, she grabbed a box of gloves and put a pair in Dr Patel's hands.
She told the inquiry that in June 2003 she assessed the charts of 13 patients whose abdominal wounds re-opened.
One patient's bowel was seen protruding through a line of staples.
Most of the patients were Dr Patel's and she raised her concerns with management about poor infection control techniques.
The day she gave her report to Medical Services Director Dr Darren Keating, Dr Patel showed up at her door to reject the claims.
"I was quite surprised that he came and he was there with the report in his hand and he stood over me and he accounted for each case,'' she said.
"They seemed to me to be reasonable explanations, but I don't have the expertise.''
The inquiry continues.