Dr Kiran Phadke's supporters say questions remain unanswered as he prepares to return to St George and Sutherland Hospitals

Family relief: Dr Kiran Phadke at home with his wife Linda and daughter Alana after he was cleared to return to St George and Sutherland Hospitals. Picture: John Veage
Family relief: Dr Kiran Phadke at home with his wife Linda and daughter Alana after he was cleared to return to St George and Sutherland Hospitals. Picture: John Veage

Cancer specialist Kiran Phadke will resume work in oncology at St George and Sutherland Shire Hospitals on May 8 after his suspension was lifted.

As part of the decision announced on April 13, Dr Phadke has agreed not to practice haematology.

Dr Phadke said later he proposed this course of action to local health district chief executive Gerry Marr and his advisers as a means of resolving the conflict of opinion over his departure from official guidelines in some cases.

While Dr Phadke was happy with the outcome, prominent supporters said he should have been fully vindicated, and important questions about the inquiry remained unanswered.

Grateful for support: Dr Kiran Phadke with his wife Linda, daughter Alana and their dog Rusty, who they retrieved from the council pound in 2003 after he was featured as the Leader's Dog of the Week. Picture: John Veage

Grateful for support: Dr Kiran Phadke with his wife Linda, daughter Alana and their dog Rusty, who they retrieved from the council pound in 2003 after he was featured as the Leader's Dog of the Week. Picture: John Veage

Dr Phadke and his wife Linda thanked the community for their “amazing support”.

Mrs Phadke said, “I feel at last I can breathe again. I have not been able to do that for 12 months.”

Mr Marr, the chief executive of South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, said it had been agreed with Dr Phadke he would not practice haematology on his return to the workplace.

“Given there were no adverse findings in his oncology practice, Dr Phadke’s suspension, with respect to oncology, will be lifted with immediate effect and he will return to the workplace subject to the conditions set out by the NSW Medical Council regarding the requirement of supervision,” Mr Marr said.

Mr Marr said, during the first two months of his return to work, the district would support Dr Phadke to comply with conditions of the NSW Medical Council. 

“This will allow Dr Phadke to request the restoration of his privileges in his medical oncology practice,” he said.

Mr Marr said the health district established the investigation under Ministry of Health policy in order to satisfy itself that patients were not at risk, and this was “our primary consideration”.

Dr Phadke said the decision was “a good outcome as my main aim was to get back to work and treating patients, which I like doing”.

“Two-thirds of my practice is oncology, and it makes sense for me to concentrate on the positives rather than to have a situation where there was not a proper decision,” he said.

Businesswoman Madeline Tynan, who was a member of the community-based committee which supported Dr Phadke, said the specialist should have been fully vindicated.

“Hopefully he will fight for that later on,” she said.

“It’s just pleasing to get him back where he’s needed.”

Another committee member, Cr Carol Provan, said, if it wasn’t for the community’s stand, the outcome could have been much different.

“I think Dr Phadke deserves an apology and both he and the community need an explanation of how this situation came about in the first place,” she said.

“The main thing is the community needs Dr Phadke, and now they will have him back again.”

Senior surgeon Kevin Hanel said Dr Phadke, his patients and the medical and wider communities deserved answers to several unanswered questions.

Dr Hanel said the first question was, “How does a loyal and hard working employee of NSW Health, who has developed a world class cancer service from scratch over 30 years and raised millions of dollars for the funding of that service, find his reputation tarnished his clinical practice destroyed and he and his family’s privacy and mental well being threatened over an issue that at worst should have been dealt with at a departmental level?”

He also questioned the choice of reviewers and the period of almost a year in conducting the inquiry when policy guidelines stated it should be completed in 90 days.

Dr Hanel questioned the role of the health district board in representing the interests and concerns of the community, and whether such “important matters be entrusted to health bureaucrats who are transient occupants of their positions”.

He claimed the NSW Medical Board should be “more forensic in their investigation and adjudication of these complaints, allowing at least some semblance of the principles of natural justice and not just act as a rubber stamp for a besieged health minister and a flawed bureaucratic process”.

Dr Hanel said any doctor in NSW could have ended up in Dr Phadke’s situation, “and more so, given Mr Marr’s concept of ‘potential harm’ ”.

“Every doctor who writes out a prescription or does an operation could be accused of causing ‘potential harm,’ " he said.

“The only things  that have saved Dr. Phadke has been the currency of goodwill he has built up over decades of treating patients, the enormous support he has had from colleagues and patients and fair-minded members of the community and the media and the intervention of a health minister who has taken advice and recognised the lack of natural justice in the current complaints system,

“At last a bit of common sense was injected into the process and I complement Mr Hazzard for this.”

Dr Phadke said he was happy to be supervised for two months by acting head of oncology, Dr Jodi Lynch, after which he could apply to have restrictions lifted and decide whether to restart his private practice.

“I feel I have something to offer for a few years yet,” said Dr Phadke, who is 68.

Dr Phadke said he was grateful for the support shown by patients, medical colleagues and the wider community, including the committee members, who also included Michael Douglas, Lorna Stone,  Phill Bates and Denis Stapleton.

Dr Phadke praised Mr Hazzard for appointing two advisers to assist Mr Marr, his local MP  Mark Speakman for seeking a fair process and MP Lee Evans for his representations.

He thanked the Leader and 2GB’s Ben Fordham for media coverage, and the Coffee Club, a group of men from all walks of life, who meet at Tradies Caringbah every Wednesday, who had been “very supportive”.