ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Hans Battaerd was fastest at the Ballina Masters Time Trial a week before his tragic death on November 23, 2016.
ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Hans Battaerd was fastest at the Ballina Masters Time Trial a week before his tragic death on November 23, 2016. Courtesy Cheryl Battaerd

Coroner recommends GPs mandatory reporting of dementia

MORE than two years after the death of Northern Rivers cyclist, a NSW deputy coroner has recommended medical practitioners must report patients suffering from dementia to the Roads and Maritime Services to decide if they should keep their drivers licence.

Tintenbar retired firefighter and father of two Hans Battaerd, 59, died instantly on November 23, 2016 when a Mitsubishi 4WD driven by then 81-year-old Ernst Hennings struck him from behind near the Tamarind Drive overpass on the Pacific Highway north of Ballina.

Now his widow, Cheryl Battaerd is calling for the corner's recommendation to the NSW minister for Health be made into law to keep medically unfit drivers off the road.

At Ballina on Thursday, deputy state coroner Magistrate Jeff Linden delivered his recommendation, "that a medical practitioner must upon diagnosing dementia in a patient, forthwith notify the licencing authority of that diagnosis.”

Magistrate Linden said he was, "satisfied at the date of the accident Mr Hennings was suffering from dementia to a degree that his driving ability was impaired.”

Ms Battaerd said she is relieved to hear of the coroner's recommendation.

"It's an important recommendation for the safety of all road users, drivers, cyclists or pedestrians,” she said.

"We need to protect people from themselves too, because if a driver has diminished cognitive ability, then they can't be driving.”

Ms Battaerd said she was not about apportioning blame, she simply wanted to ensure that no-one else had to go through the horror of losing a beloved husband, father, brother and friend as her family had.

An earlier coronial inquest in held Ballina heard that Mr Hennings' family had raised serious concerns about the elderly man's fitness to drive prior to the tragedy.

His daughter Julie King told the inquest she spoke with her father's GP Dr Bruce Cameron at least once before November 2016 and asked what could be done about it.

However, Magistrate Linden noted Dr Cameron was under no obligation to refer Mr Hennings to the RMS and did not do so.

Richmond Police District Acting Commander Cameron Lindsay said the coronial recommendation is now being reviewed to assess its implication for all road-users.

"It's a tragic set of circumstances which have led to this situation,” he said.

Dr Cameron has been contacted for comment.



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