A doctor in charge of a Victorian maternity unit plagued by multiple preventable baby deaths has admitted to a litany of errors, including incorrectly telling a pregnant woman her baby was dying.
Former Bacchus Marsh Hospital obstetrics director Dr Surinder Parhar faced the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Tuesday where he admitted to nine allegations of professional misconduct.
The hospital was at the centre of a cluster of seven “potentially avoidable” baby deaths during the time he was director between 2008 and 2015.
The doctor admitted failing to take proper obstetric care of a woman in 2013 who was 17-weeks pregnant and misdiagnosed her bleeding and pain as the death of her baby.
In 10 cases where babies died he admitted performing inadequate clinical reviews. One of the cases was a stillborn infant who was delivered via a delayed C-section after an attempted forceps delivery in 2008.
The now 73-year-old also failed to keep clear records including cases where a child died during birth and his notes were “illegible”, the tribunal found.
Amongst his other failings he did not undertake education about “medical leadership” and didn’t properly supervise or assess junior doctors at the hospital.
This included not checking the junior doctor’s credentials or whether they were correctly interpreting babies heart rates.
“His whole case is while he did his very best … his very best was not good enough,” barrister Ross Gillies QC said on behalf of the doctor.
His lawyer said as the area changed from regional to being part of Melbourne’s outer suburbs the hospital was becoming increasingly stretched, Mr Gillies said.
“This hospital was administratively in tatters,” Mr Gillies argued.
The lawyer said there were “errors of judgment made” and the former obstetrician voluntarily surrendered his medical registration in 2015.
“He loved his profession, he loved his patients but realises he has left in shame,” Mr Gillies told the tribunal.
His career had ended in “ignominy” and “disgrace” and he was completely remorseful, the lawyer said.
Mr Gillies said Dr Parhar regretted the impact of his conduct on families and the ripple effect it had on the community.
The lawyer for the Medical Board of Australia said a promise the doctor would never again be registered to practice would send a “powerful message”.
But he said tribunal members could still impose a period that would bar him from practising.
The doctor’s defence lawyer argued his client was prepared to never practice again and an undertaking was sufficient.
“He’s accepting that his days are over,” Mr Gillies told the court.
The investigation into the doctor and the hospital was launched after an independent expert report looked into the maternity unit.
The tribunal will hand down their decision in writing at a later date.
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