Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Australia's Dubious Dr. Jayant Patel

Big Trouble in Bundaberg

Map of Australia with Bundaberg locator
Map of Australia with Bundaberg locator

In 2003, Patel moved to Queensland, Australia, and into a luxurious waterfront apartment in Bargara. Despite his past record, he was promptly appointed director of surgery at nearby Bundaberg Base Hospital, a position that paid around $200,000 a year. It was clear that hospital authorities had no idea of his troublesome background at the time they hired him. It would take another two years to realize they likely made a grave error.

In the meantime, Patel carried on with work and performed numerous complex operations. However, many of the procedures proved to be "quite beyond his expertise," Chandler said. A large number of his patients complained that they suffered postoperative complications from which they failed to recover. In fact, of the 1,202 patients he treated in just two years, it was alleged that at least 87 of them died due to complications related to the surgeries Patel performed, CBS News reported.

Bundaberg Hospital sign
Bundaberg Hospital sign

Even though many purportedly died on Patel's watch, some of the nurses who worked with him said that he rarely took responsibility for his negligence. Julie-Anne Davies quoted Bundaberg surgical nurse Vicki Smith in a NineMSN article, stating that "Even when a patient was dying on the table, blood everywhere, he'd turn around and say to everyone in theatre, 'This is not the result of my surgery.'" Many who worked at the hospital knew of Patel's bad surgical record and some jokingly referred to him as "Dr. E. coli" because so many of his patients suffered from infections related to his sloppy work, CBS News reported. Patel was said to have had such a terrible reputation that some doctors and nurses went so far as to hide their patients from him.

Nevertheless, few on staff filed formal complaints against Patel likely for fear of risking their own positions. The complaints that did make it to hospital management were largely ignored. However, ICU nurse Hoffmann realized that keeping Patel on staff would almost certainly result in many more unnecessary deaths. It was clear something desperately needed to be done. Thus, she waged a lengthy campaign to have him re-evaluated and removed.

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