Judge ruled Mackay surgeon had 'unsatisfactory conduct'

VIOLET Walsh believes she nearly died from complications, including septicaemia, after abdominal surgery.

"I was so very ill," the Mackay woman said, still visibly distressed after suffering more than five years of ill health since the surgery on January 5, 2009.

The North Mackay surgeon who performed the surgery has now received a severe official reprimand from a Queensland judge for his poor post-operative care after the case.

Dr William Joseph 'Cody' Fitzgerald was referred to the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal by the Medical Board of Australia.

Following her surgery at the Mackay Mater Hospital, Mrs Walsh was transferred to Mackay Base Hospital on January 12, 2009.

"I ended up on life support for over three weeks at Mackay Base," she said.

Weeks later, she was flown to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane and remained there for 18 months, supported by her husband Geoff.

"I had an open gut for 18 months. My bowel was exposed through a huge hole in my belly.

"I felt I was never going to get out of hospital, it was horrible," Mrs Walsh said, in tears at the memories.

She underwent three operations to remove many litres of faecal fluid from her abdomen.

In his report, Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC said Dr Fitzgerald admitted his conduct constituted 'unsatisfactory professional conduct' during his post-operative treatment of Mrs Walsh.

He issued an official reprimand of the surgeon and ordered Dr Fitzgerald to participate in a 24-month mentoring program with an experienced specialist registered in general surgery. The mentor must conduct a clinical audit of not less than five cases a month.

Judge Horneman-Wren said the surgeon must also complete a Royal Australian College of Surgeons course on management of surgical emergencies within a year.



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