Friday 23 March 2018

Seven women sue consultant guilty of poor performance

Peter Van Geene
Peter Van Geene
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The bankrupt gynaecologist who was found guilty of poor professional performance by the Medical Council last week is being sued by a number of his former patients.

Seven women have launched civil actions against Dr Peter Van Geene in actions relating to his time at Aut Even private hospital in Kilkenny.

The proceedings were issued between 2012 and 2015, when Dr Van Geene was under investigation by the Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Commitee for his care of four patients on whom he performed hysterectomies.

Last week, the Medical Council found him guilty of two counts of poor professional performance in the case of one patient, Helen Cruise (61), but not guilty in relation any of the other allegations concerning three other patients.

Ms Cruise, who waived her anonymity at the inquiry, criticised the length of time it took for her complaint to be dealt with by the Medical Council. She told the Sunday Independent she was "not pleased" with the verdict.

"This has been going on for four years and it is way too long for any woman to go through a process like this," she said. "I am suffering from depression ever since. I was left terrified. I went through a terrible time."

Dr Van Geene denied the allegations. Before he moved to Ireland, Dr Van Geene held a senior position at Guys and St Thomas's hospital in London, and was chairman of the South East Thames Gynaecology Oncology Network. He moved to Ireland after the London tube bombings in 2005, which he said "traumatised" his wife. He told the Medical Council that she was on a tube train that immediately preceded a train that was bombed. "I had a very significant career in gynaecology in London. I moved to Ireland for my family," he said.

Dr Van Geene applied for bankruptcy in the UK in January and is due to walk free of his debts in three months time. His bankruptcy documents list him as "unemployed" but say he was "lately carrying on business" as a doctor at the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford and Aut Even. His addresses are listed in Brighton, Yorkshire and St Mullins in Carlow.

Although he is bankrupt, any claims against the doctor are likely to be covered by his medical indemnity insurance if they are successful.

Ms Cruise told the Medical Council her life had been "destroyed" by Dr Van Geene. Having waited for treatment as a public patient, she was delighted to be referred to Mr Van Geene at Aut Even hospital through the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

She claimed he performed a hysterectomy on her, and afterwards suffered post operative bleeding and needed six units of blood. She claimed that following the operation he told her that he "took out my womb and threw it in a bucket on the floor", and that he was rude to her. A nurse who testified put his rudeness at "seven or eight" on a scale of one to 10. Ms Cruise also alleged that Mr Van Geene only obtained her consent for surgery once she was in the operating theatre. Mr Van Geene said this was "quite impossible". He also denied saying he threw her womb in a bucket - that would have been "outrageous", he said.

The Medical Council found that Mr Van Geene had failed to adequately explain the procedures due to be carried out, as well as the risks involved. It found that he had also communicated with Ms Cruise in an incorrect or inappropriate manner after the operation. The Medical Council did not find him guilty in relation to 13 of the 15 allegations he faced.

The Medical Council will decide what, if any, sanctions he should face at a future date.

Sunday Independent

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