A parliamentary inquiry has made no finding or offered comment on Dr Kiran Phadke’s treatment of cancer patients.
Dr Phadke resumed work at St George and Sutherland Shire Hospitals in May after a local health district inquiry cleared him in regard to oncology treatment and he offered not to practice haematology.
A report by the upper house select committee into off-protocol prescribing of chemotherapy in NSW hospitals was released on Friday.
The report made only one finding and provided 11 recommendations for treatment safeguards across all hospitals.
The committee found St Vincent’s Hospital failed to prevent and to respond effectively to the off-protocol prescribing of chemotherapy.
The hospital had since taken responsibility for these failures and was addressing them appropriately, the report said.
The report made no finding and offered no comment in respect of actions by St Vincent’s Hospital specialist Dr John Grygiel or Dr Phadke at St George and Sutherland Hospitals.
“As in respect of Dr John Grygiel the committee has chosen not to comment in respect of Dr Phadke’s actions as we cannot in any way undermine the Health Care Complaints Commission investigation currently underway, nor any future legal proceedings that might arise from that investigation,” the report said.
The Health Care Complaints Commission investigation of Dr Phadke ran parallel to the health district’s inquiry, and was informed by it, but has not yet been completed.
The parliamentary committee report detailed the local health district’s investigation into Dr Phadke, the findings, his response and the evidence both he and officials gave to the inquiry.
“The committee received a large number of submissions from patients and colleagues of Dr Phadke expressing strong support for him,” the report said.
“It also heard evidence from Dr Phadke and the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, who carried out an investigation into his practice.”
Committee chairman Paul Green said in a foreword to the report there was “a consensus among inquiry participants that clinical guidelines and protocols for prescribing chemotherapy treatment are necessary, but they must also allow for flexibility for the individual patient”.
“The committee heard that cancer treatment is not recipe book medicine, but must be customised to the needs of each patient,” he said.
“Doctors possess the expertise to make these judgement calls with the consent of patients, but where their judgments go beyond reasonable limits, it is important that effective safeguards be in place.”
Mr Green said “getting a diagnosis of cancer is a moment of crisis for any individual, when their world explodes and nothing feels like it will ever be the same again”.
“In that moment the individual becomes a patient and places their life in their doctors’ hands,” he said.
“A key theme of the inquiry has been trust – the profound trust that cancer patients and their families place in their treating clinicians and also in their hospital.
“Every patient must be able to trust that their doctor is acting within the bounds of reasonable care, with their consent.
“They must also be able to trust that if their doctor’s actions are called into question, their hospital will act quickly to inform and protect them.”
Mr Green said the inquiry had found “St Vincent’s Hospital did not live up to the trust that patients placed in it”.
“It is abundantly clear to the committee that the hospital’s failures in identifying the issue and responding to the allegations of off-protocol chemotherapy prescribing were substantial, multifaceted and prolonged,” he said.
Mr Green said the committee had been “unable to discount the possibility of a cover-up”.