Invercargill, September 27, NZPA - An Invercargill woman who was told by her urologist she had strained a muscle and should take panadol was diagnosed with kidney stones and a cancerous tumour on her left kidney just days later, a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal was told today.
The tribunal is considering three charges laid by the Professional Misconduct Committee against the urologist, Sajan Bhatia.
They include one charge of practising without holding an annual practising certificate, one of failing to comply with conditions of practice and one of professional misconduct.
Dr Bhatia failed to show at the hearing, during which counsel for the committee, Chris Lange, outlined conditions the tribunal had previously imposed on Dr Bhatia in February 2007.
However, Dr Bhatia failed following the conditions and in December, 2008 the Medical Council told him to stop practising and said it would not issue him with an annual practising certificate.
The Invercargill woman told the tribunal today she had bladder cancer and had been Dr Bhatia's patient since 2000. She had regular checks with Dr Bhatia about every four months, the results sometimes clear of cancer and sometimes not.
On December 23, 2008, the woman turned up at Dr Bhatia's consulting rooms for an appointment but they were locked. She arranged another appointment for the following month during which they discussed a new treatment the woman was keen to have.
However, Dr Bhatia failed to organise it and failed to provide the woman with her April check-up at Southern Cross Hospital.
On May 10, 2009, she called into his offices and told his secretary she was urinating every 30 minutes or so, that it was painful and her urine was "claret" coloured.
A few days later she went to see Dr Bhatia because she was in severe pain. She said he berated her for having taken some antibiotics he had previously prescribed her for a bladder infection.
Dr Bhatia prescribed her more antibiotics which had no effect.
On May 22 she hand-delivered a letter to his office telling him she still had the symptoms and had developed a dull pain on her left side. She asked whether she may have kidney stones.
Dr Bhatia phoned the woman and prescribed her sleeping pills. "He suggested that I had 'strained or pulled a muscle and to take some panadol', (that) it would not be kidney stones."
On May 29 she was in so much pain a friend took her to the emergency department at Southland Hospital where an ultrasound confirmed she had kidney stones. Tests detected a cancerous tumour on her left kidney.
The woman referred herself to another urologist who advised her Dr Bhatia had not had a practising certificate since December 2008.
"At no time during my dealings with him did he advise me that he was no longer able to practise medicine nor did he arrange for any other person for me to be referred to."
Southern Cross Hospital manager Judith Bradley also described difficulties she had getting Dr Bhatia to submit credentialling paperwork. She confirmed Dr Bhatia had performed 13 surgeries between December 2008 and April 2009 until she was advised by the Medical Council that Dr Bhatia did not hold a current practising certificate. As a result, he was advised he could not operate at the hospital.
The hearing continues tomorrow.
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