Dr Richard Hocking is now an orthopedic surgeon at the Bundaberg Hospital despite being invesitgated over 44 complaints.
Dr Richard Hocking is now an orthopedic surgeon at the Bundaberg Hospital despite being invesitgated over 44 complaints.

WATCH: Hospital boss defends embattled surgeon

 

UPDATE 2PM: BUNDABERG Hospital boss Adrian Pennington says he has faith in the region's new orthopaedic surgeon Dr Richard Hocking, so much so he has booked in for hip replacement with the embattled doctor.

The Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive officer fronted the media today to reassure residents the hospital wasn't going back to the bad old days of Dr Jayent Patel.

The press conference was a reaction to a story published in the Courier Mail about Dr Hocking today.

The front page story revealed Bundaberg Hospital's new surgeon had been investigated by Australia's medical watchdog after 44 complaints were made against him.

Dr Hocking had his registration temporarily suspended and had been banned from doing certain operations without supervision.

Last year he was reprimanded at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for removing bone from a 13-year-old girl's hip during an arthroscopy, causing her to later require a full hip replacement.

The tribunal found he had engaged in multiple accounts of "unsatisfactory professional performance" and one count of "unprofessional conduct" for a report he wrote in an attempt to cover up the botched surgery in Canberra.

Today Mr Pennington defended and stood by the hiring of Dr Hocking saying since arriving at the hospital he had performed more than 500 operations.

He said no complaints about the surgeon had come across his desk to sign.

Commentary on the NewsMail Facebook page this morning was both positive and negative with a number of people saying they had issues after Dr Hocking's surgery.

"If somebody does have a specific issue they would like to raise… I am quite happy for them to write or call my office and we would look at that case," Mr Pennington said.

"Just to further explain with orthopaedic surgery there are natural complications.

Bundaberg Hospital. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
Bundaberg Hospital. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

 

"Every outcome is not 100% perfect," he said.

Mr Pennington backed up his confidence in Dr Hocking's skill saying he was booked in for a hip replacement with him.

"I was referred to him by my own GP, I have a problem with my own hip and I was reviewed by Dr Hocking three or four months ago.

"I'm on the waiting list personally to have an operation in the next 12 months and Dr Hocking will be doing the hip replacement for me personally."

When questioned about the number of surgeons who applied for the job after it was advertised, Mr Pennington said he couldn't remember but Dr Hocking wasn't the only one.

"We would have had multiple applications," Mr Pennington said.

"There was a detailed selection process which involved interviews… to look into performance restrictions.

"Even once appointed that person is put through an internal credentialing committee. "This is not a decision just made by me … it involves multiple senior medical staff.

"Our teams would not allow somebody who is unsafe to be working in our organisation."  

 

 

EARLIER: BUNDABERG Hospital has employed a surgeon who has been investigated by Australia's medical watchdog, had his registration temporarily suspended and who had been banned from doing certain operations without supervision.

Dr Richard Hocking started work at Bundaberg Hospital as the staff orthopaedic surgeon in January despite being investigated about 44 complaints.

The revelation was today's Courier Mail's front page story.

In the expose, that turned to a double page spread on pages four and five, it revealed Dr Hocking left Canberra in 2014 as complaints started to emerge about his work.

Last year he was reprimanded at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for removing bone from a 13-year-old girl's hip during an arthroscopy, causing her to later require a full hip replacement.

The tribunal found he had engaged in multiple accounts of "unsatisfactory professional performance" and one count of "unprofessional conduct" for a report he wrote in an attempt to cover up the botched surgery.

At the same time he was investigated about a complaint where he gave a nine-year-old boy an "experimental injection".

He was cleared of the allegations but admitted the MBA was investigating 44 complaints about him.

"Even though only a small proportion of those cases resulted in adverse findings, the number of complaints made is disturbing," the tribunal said.

Other past complaints against Dr Hocking, revealed in the Courier Mail, include a woman who needed an amputation after surgery and worrying treatment of an 18-month-old.

Between 2011 and June this year his medical registration was subject to many restrictions and conditions but that didn't stop the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service employing Dr Hocking.

A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service spokesperson said Dr Hocking joined Bundaberg Hospital as a full-time credentialed staff orthopaedic surgeon in January 2016, following several locum stints from June the previous year.

"As a full-time public sector surgeon he will, on occasion, operate on private patients in Bundaberg Hospital, but he does not work in the private hospital system," the spokesperson said.

"During the recruitment phase, Dr Hocking fully disclosed the restrictions on his Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency registration.

"For the first 12 months of Dr Hocking's employment at Bundaberg Hospital, including as a locum, he worked strictly according to the conditions of his AHPRA registration.

"In June 2016, he successfully applied to the Queensland Medical Board for his restrictions to be lifted.

"As a result of this decision in October, he can now work without conditions and does so with the full support of WBHHS.

"Many doctors across Australia work under various kinds of AHPRA conditions, and these are regularly monitored.

"Bundaberg Hospital appointed a Clinical Director of Orthopaedic Surgery in 2015 who remains in his role.

"Dr Hocking is not being considered for this position.

"Dr Hocking is a valued and respected member of Bundaberg Hospital's orthopaedics team, highly regarded both by staff and patients.

"He strongly participates in education, training and clinical governance programs."

So far in his role at Bundaberg he has performed more than 500 surgeries with no significant adverse effects, a Wide Bay Hospital and Health spokesman said.

 

Below is a report posted on the Medical Board of Australia website about Dr Hocking

 

25 Feb 2016:

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) has found an orthopaedic surgeon engaged in unprofessional conduct.

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) has found an orthopaedic surgeon engaged in unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory professional performance in his treatment of a number of patients and restricted his practice to protect patients.

The Medical Board of Australia had referred Dr Richard Hocking, an orthopaedic surgeon, to the ACAT because of concerns about his clinical judgement and performance.

In April 2013, the Board had taken immediate action to protect patients and manage risk to the public, and had suspended Dr Hocking's registration, pending other inquiries.

Dr Hocking had appealed this decision and the ACAT ordered a stay of the Board's decision.

In September 2013, ACAT considered this appeal and handed down its decision in March 2015.

ACAT decided Dr Hocking's ongoing practice posed an immediate risk to patients but that suspension was not necessary. Instead ACAT imposed a condition on his registration prohibiting Dr Hocking from treating paediatric patients who have Perthes Disease with platelet rich plasma (PRP), unless he does so under the supervision of a specialist orthopaedic surgeon approved by the Board.

In the intervening period the Board had imposed other conditions on his registration in response to further notifications.

In March 2015, ACAT considered submissions related to three separate matters - two disciplinary actions by the Board and one appeal by Dr Hocking.

At the time of the hearing Dr Hocking had three Board-imposed conditions on his registration preventing him from performing unsupervised open elective hip or pelvic surgery, other than routine primary adult hip replacement and requiring him to retrain in elective open hip or pelvic surgery.

An earlier ACAT decision had imposed a condition on Dr Hocking not to perform any elective paediatric surgery.

The first matter related to allegations that Dr Hocking had removed bone from the rim of the hip socket of a 13 year-old patient who suffered from a congenital hip dysplasia, while he was performing a hip arthroscopy.

The Board alleged that three or four months after the operation, after Dr Hocking knew there had been complications post-surgery, he had created a second more detailed operation report that purported to be a contemporaneous account of the operation.

The ACAT found that there were errors in Dr Hocking's first report and that his second report was deliberately produced for use in possible disciplinary proceedings and aimed to present his actions during the arthroscopy in a more favourable light.

The ACAT found the preparation of the second report amounted to unprofessional conduct.

The Board also alleged that Dr Hocking failed to disclose to the patient and her family the restrictions on his registration, when those restrictions would have prevented him from performing the second stage of the patient's treatment plan.

ACAT found that Dr Hocking's belief that those restrictions would have been lifted by the time of the second stage of the treatment plan was not reasonable.

The Tribunal was satisfied that Dr Hocking had a legal, ethical, and professional obligation to inform the patient of the restrictions on his registration and his failure to do so amounted to unsatisfactory professional performance. The second matter related to allegations of Dr Hocking's experimental and novel injection of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) inter-articularly into the hip of a nine year-old patient with Perthes' disease.

ACAT accepted evidence that PRP was a novel therapeutic treatment for Perthes' disease in paediatric patients but that there were no adverse effects for the patient in this case, that PRP is used to reduce inflammation in conditions not dissimilar to Perthes' disease, and that PRP is increasingly being used to replace treatment with steroids to reduce inflammation.

ACAT noted that Dr Hocking was not, at the time, working within the public hospital system and was thereby not required to seek hospital ethics committee approval of his use of this novel technology to treat a child. For these reasons, ACAT found Dr Hocking had no case to answer about his use of the PRP treatment.

The Board's allegation that Dr Hocking misrepresented to the patient's parents the prior use of PRP injections to treat children with Perthes' disease, and that he failed to gain the parent's informed consent for its use on their daughter, were not proven.

However, ACAT found Dr Hocking engaged in unsatisfactory professional performance by failing to refer the patient to another paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, when this was warranted.

The third matter related to the Board's refusal in December 2013 to remove the three conditions imposed on Dr Hocking's registration requiring supervision and retraining.

ACAT decided to set aside the three conditions but replace them with new conditions. Overall, ACAT found Dr Hocking had engaged in one count of unprofessional conduct and three counts of unsatisfactory professional performance.

It applied a global response to the three matters by imposing conditions on Dr Hocking's registration requiring him to discuss all complex cases pre-operatively with suitably qualified surgeons, highlight his athroplasty audit as part of his professional development and peer review process, practise within a department in the public hospital sector and with a group in the private sector and arrange his operating theatre bookings to make sure his major cases are performed only where and when a second surgeon is available to provide clinical back-up when needed.



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