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Qld Health bows to pressure and expands Caboolture Hospital inquiry

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An inquiry into allegations of malpractice at Caboolture Hospital will be expanded to examine complaints prior to 2020.

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The review was ordered after media reports and the opposition Liberal National Party aired claims of preventable deaths, surgical negligence, and a culture of bullying at the hospital north of Brisbane.

Metro North Hospital and Health Service chair Jim McGowan said the inquiry had originally limited the terms to after 2020, which is before the initial complaints were made, but it will now hear any complaints about the hospital.

“The review panel has agreed that it will take concerns from people who have had, in their view, adverse reactions to treatment prior to that time,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“Probably the best way to do it is through the hotline, and that those matters will be investigated and when necessary considered within the context of the review.”

The shift in messaging from the Metro North chair comes after a number of people alleged that they had suffered surgical negligence at Caboolture Hospital but their complaints would not be heard by the review panel.

One of those people is school teacher Olivia Keating, who went to the hospital for a caesarean operation in 2018 and emerged with part of her bowel sewn into the wall of her abdomen.

She has endured 11 operations to fix a mistake that at times threatened her life and left her with “a football of organs in my groin, that stick outside of my body”.

Ms Keating has two more surgeries ahead of her and is desperate for some formal acknowledgement of what she has endured.

“I just want to be acknowledged. How many other people like me are there? My first reaction was, ‘what are they so afraid of,’” she told reporters through tears on Monday.

McGowan said the situation at the hospital “is not as we would want it” and he wanted to ensure all incidents were properly investigated with actions taken where appropriate.

He said he was particularly sympathetic to complainants like Keating, whose story he said he hadn’t heard.

“My heart goes out for her and other people who feel aggrieved by this but, you know, we’re very big hospital service, and very large hospitals, and clearly there are things which go wrong,” the Metro North chair said.

“And there are people who are disappointed in the service, and our job is to actually investigate those things properly, and address them where we can, and certainly make sure that procedures are put in place to prevent that from happening.

“That’s my absolute commitment that I make in this regard.”

McGowan said he intended to release the inquiry’s final report in full, but the names of individuals would be redacted.

He also said that any verified claims of negligence would be referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency for investigation.

“In terms of the veracity of the claims process and systems that are in place in Caboolture that will be made public,” McGowan said.

“We owe that to the people of Caboolture quite frankly, this is not just for Metro North, this is actually for a community that depends upon a really significant hospital.”

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