Calls for investigation into claims of ‘vetting’ for submissions to hospital chemotherapy inquiry

The report could not find a compelling reason to explain Dr John Grygiel’s decision to flat dose his patents. Photo: SuppliedThe clerk of the NSW parliament has been asked to investigate claims health department employees were required to get approval from senior bureaucrats before making submissions to an inquiry into under-dosing of chemotherapy patients at Sydney hospitals.
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MPs have asked the clerk to investigate whether the inquiry into the widening under-dosing affair has been stymied after a claim was made that employees in eight south-eastern Sydney hospitals were told to secure approval from the health district’s CEO and the department before submitting statements.

One Greens MP has accused the health minister Jillian Skinner of “vetting” witnesses to the inquiry into the widening scandal that has dogged the Baird government since news first broke in February.

A spokeswoman for the health ministry said that employees were allowed to make statements on their “own behalf” but the health department’s code of conduct meant they could only provide official comment on health matters when authorised.

Ms Skinner declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to local authorities and the department.

“Minister Skinner should say why she is trying to cover up this massive scandal at every turn,” Greens health spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said. “First the minister intervened to stop a special commission of inquiry and now it seems she is vetting witnesses”.

Fairfax understands the inquiry has heard evidence from a range of witnesses who have questioned how allegations of under-dosing could have been unnoticed by hospital staff.

Allegations of under-dosing of chemotherapy patients of Dr John Grygiel at St Vincents Hospital were the subject of a scathing report from the head of the Cancer Institute, Dr David Currow.

News initially broke that treatment of up to 70 of Dr Grygiel’s St Vincents patients was being questioned.

But MPs have said that number could hit 300 when Dr Grygiel’s patients across central-western NSW hospitals over past decades were accounted for.

Patients were found to have been given “flat” or “reduced” doses of carboplatin, or the oral chemo drug capecitabine, according to the Currow Report.

At a press conference given by the minister in August, she updated the media on allegations of under-dosing at another hospital, said to have been revealed by a nurse.

Ms Skinner then said there was no reason to believe that hospital employees would be discouraged from, or punished, for speaking out about problems in the health system.

“I have a great deal of admiration for the nurses who spoke out. I think we have a greater deal of transparency and openness now than ever before,” she said. “If it can improve patient care then they should speak out […] I believe that they have an obligation so to do”.

It was alleged by the health department that another doctor, Dr Kiran Phadke, of Sutherland Hospital, part of the south-eastern local health district, had dispensed “off protocol” treatments to three patients.

Dr Phadke recently spoke out about the allegations, claiming he had been “publicly vilified” and “cast adrift” by the health ministry without being given a chance to defend himself.

Submissions to the inquiry closed in the last week and have been sent to members of the committee today.

The inquiry is due to report its findings by March.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.