Nurses give evidence of the horrifying day in Dr. Jayant Patel’s surgery

The trial of Dr. Jayant Patel continues. In recent evidence at the court one of the operating theatre nurses revealed under oath to the Brisbane Supreme Court how staff had tried to deter former Bundaberg-based surgeon Jayant Patel from transferring an unstable patient from the theatre to ICU, where he died. There was earlier evidence that the man was bleeding uncontrollably and also allegations that Patel urged junior doctors not to tell anyone what happened.

Patel who has pleaded not guilty in three manslaughter cases and one of grievous harm during his tenure as a Director of Surgery said that this was the worst day of his life. Mr. Gerry Kemps, 77, underwent major surgery in 2004 for removal of his oesophagus. There were major complications before and after the surgery.

Nurse Marie Goatham was working in the theatre during the oesophagectomy. She broke down before the court while she said that she and an anesthetist appealed to Patel not to transfer Mr Kemps out of the theatre after the operation, saying he was too unstable. “He just told us to get the patient out of there. We transferred him to ICU ventilated,” she said. Patel also allegedly accused them of delaying proceedings in his theatre. Another nurse, Damien Gaddes also testified that there was a lot of blood in Mr. Kemps’s surgical drain. According to him when he drew the attention of the accused surgeon to it he replied, “that's what drains are for, Damien”. Instrument nurse assisting Patel, Gail Doherty, also gave evidence. On cross examination from the defence, she said that Patel did not worry about the blood in the drain. She said that the patient was transferred to the intensive care only to return within hours for an emergency operation. The theatre nurse assisting Patel, Katrina Zwolak also said that there was “uncontrollable” bleeding. “When we opened him up blood spilled out of the abdomen…We basically scooped kidney basin after kidney basin of blood. Suction units were filled with blood,” she said. She recalled that Patel denied that this had happened due to a botched up surgery. “I also do recall him saying to keep tight-lipped about it to junior doctors; to keep tight-lipped and to not discuss this with anyone,” she said.

Anesthetist involved with the emergency operation, Dr Muhammed Zia Deen also said, “After two, three hours of struggle, Dr Patel closed the abdomen and chest cavity without adequate control of the bleeding.”

Under cross-examination from the defence Dr Deen said that he had done the preoperative check up for the patient and declared his heart and lungs fit for surgery. Mr. Kemps needed massive blood transfusion and died the morning after the operation. Dr Deen also said that 15 units of blood is considered a massive transfusion, and the fact that Mr. Kemps had already been given 26 units of blood made it futile to give him more.

This is week eight of the trial and the proceedings continue.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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