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 made only one finding and provided 11 recommendations for treatment safeguards across the hospital system.
The committee found St Vincent’s Hospital failed to prevent and to respond effectively to off-protocol prescribing of chemotherapy.
Inquiry chair Paul Green said the committee had been “unable to discount the possibility of a cover-up” by St Vincent’s Hospital.
The report made no finding and offered no comment in respect of actions by doctors as Health Care Complaints Commission investigations continued.
Mr Green said 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 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,” Mr Green said.