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Coroner reports up since Patel

Warwick Hospital came in behind Brisbane, Southport and Cairns for reported deaths and ahead of Maroochydore, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Ipswich.
Warwick Hospital came in behind Brisbane, Southport and Cairns for reported deaths and ahead of Maroochydore, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Ipswich.

WARWICK Hospital has recorded Queensland's fourth-highest number of hospital deaths reported to the coroner since the Jayant Patel era, a new report shows.

The annual report of the State Coroner released yesterday shows Warwick came in behind Brisbane, Southport and Cairns for reported deaths and ahead of Maroochydore, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Ipswich. Deaths in hospitals are reported to the coroner if the cause is unclear or there are question marks over treatment provided to a patient.

State Coroner Michael Barnes said significant growth of demand for coronial services could be attributed to an increase in reported hospital deaths in the wake of rogue Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel.

Patel was convicted in July 2010 of the manslaughter of three of his patients.

Mr Barnes said the increase in reporting figures also coincided with the period following the Queensland Public Hospitals' Commission of Inquiry and the introduction of the Health Quality and Complaints Commission Review of Hospital-related Death Standard in 2007.

"Clinicians are now more aware of the obligation to report certain deaths to the coroner," Mr Barnes said.

"There are also heightened public expectations of health care and a greater willingness to scrutinise treatment.

"The flow-on effect has been that treating clinicians are more likely to report deaths following health care to the coroner, and doctors may be less willing to issue death certificates without coronial authorisation."

He said the availability of pathologists to perform autopsies in regional areas was an ongoing challenge for the coronial system. The annual report details how the Chief Forensic Pathologist was actively involved in assessing cases with coroners in regional and remote areas, to ensure internal autopsies were not performed unnecessarily.

Mr Barnes said government medical officers, who were more likely to be available locally, could perform external autopsies and therefore transportation costs might not be as high.

But Mr Barnes said the need for internal autopsies presented problems in many regional areas.

"A coroner's work is interdisciplinary, in that he or she is dependent upon investigators, pathologists, counsellors and medical and other specialists to provide the information needed to make the findings," he wrote.

Reported deaths

  • Brisbane 1826
  • Southport 647
  • Cairns 583
  • Warwick 205
  • Maroochydore 177
  • Rockhampton 169
  • Bundaberg 151
  • Ipswich 136
  • Mackay 104

Topics:  state coroner, warwick hospital




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