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Death watch: Caboolture Hospital probes 12 unexplained 'cases of interest'

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Embattled Caboolture Hospital is at the centre of 12 separate investigations probing possible cases of surgical malpractice, with the State Government confirming at least one death was under review.

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The latest details have emerged from budget estimates that reinforce the findings of a review of the hospital last year, which uncovered a negative culture of bullying and examples of “clinical negligence” that may have resulted in a “preventable death”.

Jane Hancock, CEO of the hospital’s management body, Metro North HHS, told the hearing this week that none of the 12 cases being investigated resulted in patient deaths from surgical procedures since June 2020.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed that one death prior to June 2020 was included in the Caboolture Surgical Services Review, an external inquiry headed by Dr James Sweeney from South Australia.

The current investigation, of which case details are not known, is being conducted internally, which smacks of a cover-up according to Opposition Leader David Crisafulli.

Crisafulli said the people of the region north of Brisbane who relied on the hospital could have no comfort or confidence in the facility until the nature of the investigations was known and the State Government presented a plan to act on the findings.

“This hospital needs some serious work done on it,” he said.

“Until the government admits there is a problem and takes it seriously it will continue to be in a cycle of cover-ups.”

Hancock said Sweeney would return to Caboolture next month to review the implementation of his recommendations and to apply an independent lens to the current review.

Crisafulli and Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates said hospital whistleblowers and concerned constituents of the region had prompted the first review after the LNP had voiced their allegations in State Parliament.

A letter passed to the LNP alleged an adverse outcome in the Caboolture Hospital’s maternity unit.

Bates pressed Hancock for details during the hearing asking if the adverse outcome had been the death of a mother or child.

Hancock said a separate review of obstetrics and gynaecology services at Caboolture Hospital was being undertaken by Professor Ted Weaver, a Queensland Health employee.

Questions were also asked of Queensland Health’s acting director general Shaun Drummond, who was formerly the CEO of Metro North HHS and remains under investigation for “suspected corrupt conduct” while in the role.

The probe includes an allegation Drummond “improperly” used public funds to help four psychiatrists launch defamation action against a disability pensioner over a blog post in 2018.

Metro North had bankrolled the legal claim, without seeking the approval of the then attorney-general, now Health Minister, Yvette D’Ath, as required by government indemnity guidelines.

The investigation was in full stride when D’Ath appointed Drummond to Queensland Health’s most senior executive position in March.

Drummond confirmed to the hearing this week that the investigation being run by Queensland Health was still “open”.

Bates suggested the investigation could be lacking in credibility, given Queensland Health staff would be investigating their own boss for alleged corrupt conduct.

D’Ath defended Drummond on the basis the ongoing investigation had so far produced “no negative findings”.

“I am not going to make decisions to not put the best people into roles when there are no findings that say they are not suitable for that role,” she said.

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