Suspended doctor warns of wait list blowout
A SENIOR doctor at one of Brisbane's largest hospitals, who has been stood aside amid a probe into the alleged fraudulent use of government funds, has warned of a blowout in the waiting list for heart surgery.
Darren Lester Walters, the director of cardiology at Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital, has told a court that there were 32 patients awaiting "potentially life saving" transcatheter aortic replacements last month, up from six in March.
Dr Walters said patients' "health and wellbeing continues to suffer" while they are forced to wait for surgery, and that this is the longest waiting period "in all his years as leader of the unit".
He made the claims in documents filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane as part of his bid to return to work at the Prince Charles Hospital (PCH), in Chermside.
Dr Walters has been suspended on full pay for five months pending the release of findings into an investigation into claims of fraudulent invoicing, misappropriation of Medicare funds and fraudulent application for State Government funding in the hospital's indigenous Cardiac Outreach Program.
Dr Walters claims he should be allowed back to work because his "clinical work" as a doctor has never been under investigation.
Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MN) has told Dr Walters he cannot return to PCH until MN "can address" the independent report into the program "with the Crime and Corruption Commission".
MN commissioned accounting firm BDO to investigate the claims, and BDO reported back on August 17, the court heard.
MN told Dr Walters it needs time to "consider" the report and give it to the Crime and Corruption Commission "for their advice".
Dr Walters claims he was "the only person suspended from his" job as a result of the probe and has asked that MN chief executive Shaun Drummond "step aside" from deciding his fate because Mr Drummond allegedly has a conflict of interest or an apprehension of bias.
MN denies Mr Drummond has a conflict of interest or an apprehension of bias.
MN told Dr Walters that by alleging Mr Drummond is biased he is "attempting to interfere with the process, including the process before the Crime and Corruption Commission".
Dr Walters denies trying to interfere and argues MN's claims of interference are "bullying".
Dr Walters claims in documents filed in court that just days before he was stood aside he clashed with Mr Drummond over hospital budget cuts that Dr Walters believed would "compromise … patient care".
Dr Walters says that he complained to a senior doctor that MN under Drummond "was engaging in a range of Vanity Projects", publicity events, and "movies for staff and free food", instead of spending on "frontline patient services".
He told the court that he "confronted" Mr Drummond in March after Mr Drummond told staff that PCH's "budget was many millions of dollars in deficit" and he asked them "to reduce patient care and elective services".
Mr Drummond "does not recall discussing reducing patient care" at the meeting, but Dr Walters hit back saying this claim is "implausible".
"Mr Drummond cannot now seriously suggest that patient care issues were not discussed at that meeting," Dr Walters lawyers said in court documents.
The case is due back in court on September 25.