Investigate Barwon Health on harassment, says surgeon-professor Dewan

Geelong's Professor Paddy Dewan.

By NOEL MURPHY

BARWON Health should be investigated by State Government and College of Surgeons inquiries into allegations of institutionalised bullying and harassment in Victoria’s hospitals, says whistleblower Professor Paddy Dewan.
Prof Dewan, a paediatric surgeon who has undertaken humanitarian work around the world, has been hounded from three major hospitals – Geelong, the Royal Children’s and Western Health – predicted the inquiries would fail to produce any changes to entrenched bullying of medical professionals in Victoria’s health system.
“That’s what happened to me;  bullying by the Royal Childrens, Western Health and Barwon Health and  I’ve been villified for complaining about bullying – that was the initiation of my concerns about quality of care and bullying behaviours,” Prof Dewan told the Independent.
The inquiries follow recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault with senior surgical ranks but Prof Dewan’s accusations of systemic complaints mishandling and conflict of interest within hospitals and shortcomings in the national health regulator have been are more than a decade old.
“Here’s another  inquiry, two of them,” he said. “I’m delighted at the movement forward but I’m frustrated by a call for such inquiries when I’ve been ignored by people in high places and successive governments.
“A perfect example was a legislative council inquiry into the national health regulators — I had a complaint about inappropriate behaviour and went to the Ombudsman and was told there was no case to answer.
“I’ve been in touch with prime ministers, federal opposition ministers on both sides of politics, since 2003 but no-one — governments, the College of Surgeons, the Australian Medical Association — has rung me to ask me for assistance to resolve these matters.
“No-one’s saying to me ‘you have experience in these matters , can you help?’. That makes me sceptical. They’re not out to speak with people who really know, they just want to tick the box that they’ve done something.”
Prof Dewan is a former chair of the Victorian College of Surgeons.  He set up the humanitarian medical body Kind Cuts for Kids after operating on victims of a 1989 Russian train disaster that killed 800 people and has travelled overseas 100 times to operate on sick kids in Gaza, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Albania, Vietnam, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Thailand, India and Papua New Guinea.
He was sacked from working with Barwon Health last year after complaining about another surgeon then alleging the reviewer handling his complaint had a conflict of interest. He likened his case to the controversial Mark Colson case which triggered votes of no confidence in the Barwon Health executive over his dismissal.
Prof Dewan has previously called for a royal commission into the national health regulator and into hospital administration decisions damaging medical staff and care levels.
Prof Dewan  was dismissed by the Royal Children’s in controversial circumstances after complaints from fellow surgeons. He has reported dozens of incidents involving surgeons and argued his speaking out should be viewed by medical authorities as challenges to be tackled not howled down.
Barwon Health yesterday said Prof Dewan was not sacked.
“Barwon Health made a decision to improve the range and clinical safety of paediatric surgical services by partnering with the Royal Children’s Hospital and therefore did not renew any of our paediatric surgeons contracts after they expired,” a spokesperson said.
“This has been a very successful change with surgeons from the Royal Children’s Hospital performing a wider range of surgery and outpatient clinics at the University Hospital, Geelong.
“The new service has been warmly welcomed by patients and their referring paediatricians and general practitioners.”

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