Bundaberg Hospital.
Bundaberg Hospital.

Patel patient scarred for life

UPDATED: Former Bundaberg Hospital surgeon Jayant Patel told a patient he would be “running around like a horse” following the removal of his bowel in late 2004, a court was told.

Brisbane Supreme Court heard that Ian Vowles, 56 at the time, had a history of bowel surgery when Patel decided to remove the rest of his organ following a colonoscopy he performed in October, 2004.

Patel has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter and one of causing Mr Vowles grievous bodily harm, relating to his time at the hospital between 2003 and 2005.

Crown prosecutor Ross Martin said the former chief of surgery at Bundaberg Hospital told Mr Vowles his bowel needed to be removed despite the results of the biopsy showing the polyps in his bowel were benign.

Post-operative tests showed the polyps in Mr Vowles bowel needed to be removed and that could have been done during the colonoscopy, but the removal of the organ was not needed.

The prosecturo said Patel told Mr Vowles he would be well after the surgery, and that he had performed the same surgery on other patients who went skiing after it was completed.

Instead, Mr Vowles was fitted with a colostomy bag after the operation.

Several hospital administrators were also called as witnesses during the second day of Jayant Patel's trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court today.

The start of the second day of the trial was delayed for about half an hour due to legal argument between Mr Byrne and prosecutor Ross Martin.

The court was told yesterday the former Bundaberg Hospital surgeon caused the deaths of three men after he botched “dangerous” and unnecessary operations.

Patel pleaded not guilty to three charges of manslaughter and one of causing grievous bodily harm on the first day of his trial.

It has been alleged the former director of surgery bungled four operations at Bundaberg Hospital between 2003 and 2005, causing the deaths of James Phillips, Mervyn Morris and Gerry Kemps, and the permanent injury of Ian Vowles.

Crown prosecutor Ross Martin outlined the case for the prosecution to the court, which could sit for up to 12 weeks.

He then gave details of the days leading up to Mr Morris’s surgery and his death weeks later.

The prosecutor said Mr Morris, 75, was “neither a young nor a well man” when Patel removed part of his bowel on May 23, 2003.

“(The operation) was simply the wrong thing to do,” Mr Martin said.

He said exploratory procedures had failed to find the source of the bleeding Mr Morris was suffering.

The court was also told Mr Morris’s family members complained to Patel the patient was starving in the days following the surgery.

Mr Martin said the 75-year-old was treated for malnutrition only three days before he died on June 14.

“The accused’s treatment of this patient led to his avoidable death and was so far below the standard of care that was appropriate,” Mr Martin said.

“He should be held criminally responsible for Mr Morris’s death.”

Mr Martin said the jury would have to decide whether Patel’s alleged acts constituted criminal negligence.

He also briefly described the deaths of Mr Phillips and Mr Kemps during his opening address yesterday afternoon.

The court heard Mr Phillips, 46, was suffering renal failure when he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in April 2003. Patel later performed the removal of part of the patient’s oesophagus.

“This is a major and dangerous operation that should not have been done by him or at Bundaberg Hospital,” Mr Martin said.

The court was told Mr Phillips never regained consciousness and died two days later.

Mr Martin said Mr Kemps died from internal bleeding after Patel operated on him, and Mr Vowles suffered permanent injury after the doctor removed the remainder of his bowel, causing him to wear a colostomy bag.

Seven women and five men are sitting on the 12-member jury, with two men and one woman in reserve.

Earlier, Justice John Byrne addressed the jurors, telling them if they knew any of the 182 potential witnesses listed for the trial or had formed an opinion about the case because of pre-trial publicity, they should raise it before the trial started.

“If you don’t have an open mind about such things ... you should not be a juror and should be excused from this jury,” Justice Byrne said.

A member of the reserve jury was excused after he told Justice Byrne he had already formed an opinion about the case.

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