UPDATE: Hospital finds complaints 'after media coverage'
WIDE Bay Hospital and Health Service has gone into damage control after complaints were uncovered against Dr Richard Hocking at Bundaberg Hospital.
The NewsMail reported last year that the health service employed Dr Hocking after he left Canberra in 2014 as complaints started to emerge about his work.
Health service chief executive Adrian Pennington addressed media outside Bundaberg Hospital in November 2016 saying that he had had no complaints against Dr Hocking "come across his desk”.
But in January 2017, an "orthopaedic review” was on the agenda at a Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service board.
RTI documents originally obtained by the Courier-Mail show a board briefing in 2017 - with the month redacted - that "in light of media coverage” a search of the Prime Incident and Consumer Feedback system showed nine complaints against Dr Hocking, "mostly referencing Dr Hocking's communication style”.
Two were regarding a decision to delay or not perform surgery due to the patient having a Body Mass Index greater than 40 "and how that was communicated”.
Another case, which at the time of the briefing was under review by the Director of Orthopaedics, heard a complaint alleging "persistent pain and recurrent infections” of a (redacted procedure) performed by Dr Hocking in 2015.
The briefing also noted "two very positive complements (sic) have been received in recent weeks”.
Jodie Hillier spoke out claiming the surgeon left her in tears. A health service spokeswoman said Ms Hillier's complaint was still being investigated and could not confirm either of the parties involved.
But she said Dr Hocking was "a fully registered and credentialed orthopaedic surgeon, and is an important part of our high-performing surgical team”.
The team's clinical outcomes were "better than expected” and it was "one of the best performers across the state on elective surgery benchmarks”.
"Neither of these outcomes is possible without a highly capable and high-functioning general and orthopaedic surgery team,” she said, adding it was important to note "when a clinical incident is reported...it is not logged against a specific clinician because patients receive care from multidisciplinary teams of clinicians and health professionals along their clinical pathway”.
Dr Hocking joined the hospital as a staff orthopaedic surgeon in January 2016 following a series of locum stints after leaving his practice in Canberra.
A search of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency database showed Dr Hocking's medical registration was now without restrictions.
Earlier this year former patient Brian Samuels approached the NewsMail to commend Dr Hocking for his "wonderful job” on his knee operation.
Health minister Cameron Dick said Queensland Health conducted stringent checks when employing doctors.
"I have confidence in the governance and local management arrangements in place across our state's Hospital and Health Services,” Mr Dick said.
"I also have confidence in the capacity of state and national complaints bodies to respond appropriately to any issues about clinicians when they are raised.”