Foreign surgeon sues for $7m after being ‘forced out’
A FRENCH surgeon who claims he was forced out of a Townsville hospital because of unfounded complaints is suing a hospital health service and nine surgeons for $6.8 million.
Dr Richard Emery had to return to France in 2014, after he was barred from operating at Townsville's Mater Private Hospital, where he had performed surgery over six years.
Two ex-hospital patients, who claim they had to fly to France so the spinal surgeon could operate on them, are also suing for over $575,000 each.
Dr Emery claims from 2008 onwards he was the subject of audits and investigations arising from complaints by Mater Private Hospital's surgical peer review "Craft Group".
His Supreme Court claim says every audit or investigation showed his rates and severity of complications were within normal range.
From November 2013 the hospital restricted Dr Emery's ability to operate there.
In early 2014 nine Craft Group members told the doctors' regulator Dr Emery's "major clinical complications" were well above an acceptable level.
Dr Emery, who is suing those nine surgeons, claims the notification to AHPRA was not made in good faith, but with the intention of causing him harm.
The Medical Board of Australia then imposed interim conditions that significantly restricted his ability to practise, his claim says.
In May 2014 Dr Emery was told that he could no longer perform procedures at the hospital.
As he was not accredited to operate anywhere else in Australia, in December 2014 he returned to France, where he has practised since March 2015.
Dr Emery was later cleared by the Medical Board after it was found his complication rates were within acceptable limits, the claim says.
He is suing Mater Health Services North Queensland and nine surgeons for compensation for loss and damage, totalling for $6,807,676.
The claim includes his alleged loss of income for five years, losses from selling his Townsville and Cairns rooms at short notice and the cost of relocating to France.
It also includes a claim for $500,000 in exemplary damages, resulting from the alleged "egregious conduct" of the defendants.
Debra Debel, who had previously been operated on by Dr Emery at the hospital, flew to France so he could perform a second more complex surgery on her.
The Townsville hospital could not provide Ms Debel with another surgeon who could perform the urgently-needed surgery to relieve her pain, the claim says.
Because Dr Emery was the only surgeon willing to perform the surgery, it is claimed Ms Debel was "forced" to fly to France for the operation.
She is suing the health service and nine surgeons for $595,806, in compensation for loss and damage and exemplary damages.
Another patient, Michael Johnston who was to have surgery performed by Dr Emery, claims he was forced to fly to France for the operation, as no other hospital surgeon could do it.
Mr Johnston, who had to sell his house to pay for the overseas operation, is suing for $575,512, for compensation and exemplary damages.
The surgeons being sued are Dr Bruce Low, Dr John Maguire, Dr Laurence Marshman, Dr Peter McEwen, Dr Jim Price, Dr David Anderson, Dr Eric Guazzo, Dr Kaushik Hazratwala and Dr Matthew Wilkinson.
The defendants are yet to respond to the claim, filed on March 11.
But a hospital spokesman said: "Mater Private Hospital Townsville advises that as this is a legal matter, it would be inappropriate for Mater to comment at this time."
Originally published as Foreign surgeon sues for $7m after being 'forced out'