An anaesthetist says a private hospital allowed an “inexcusable” breach of duty of care over the death of a patient.
An anaesthetist says a private hospital allowed an “inexcusable” breach of duty of care over the death of a patient.

Hospital’s breach of care ‘inexcusable’ says doctor

An Adelaide private hospital has been accused by an anaesthetist of an "inexcusable" dereliction of its duty of care towards a patient who died in their high-dependency unit.

The serious accusations are contained in a civil lawsuit, claiming negligence against Ashford Hospital, for the post-operative treatment of Andrea Lambropoulos.

A coronial inquest found the 34-year-old sustained irreversible brain damage after 33 separate alarms warning of his plummeting oxygen levels were ignored in the hours after weight loss surgery.

Court documents show a negligence lawsuit between Mr Lambropoulos' family and the hospital resolved in an undisclosed settlement after several years before the courts.

The hospital has begun a third-party action as it seeks to place blame on the anaesthetist who presided over the surgery.

Dr Graham Van Renen has been added to the lawsuit and is arguing for full disclosure of information from Adelaide Community Healthcare Alliance, which operates the hospital.

The business has placed blame on Dr Van Renen, arguing that as the treating anaesthetist, the experienced doctor should have directed Mr Lambropoulos be taken to intensive care where he would have received "a higher level of care".

Dr Van Renen responded that the hospital's negligence in caring for Mr Lambropoulos after the surgery "was so gross as to be both inexcusable and a serious unforeseeable dereliction of the duty owed (to the patient)".

He further claimed any negligence on behalf of the hospital and its staff was so severe it breached any chain of responsibility linking back to the surgery itself.

The matter was scheduled for trial in the District Court late last year but fell through as Darrell Trim QC, for Dr Van Renen, sought disclosure of documents from the hospital.

The information the doctor is seeking includes details of the alarms that sounded while Mr Lambropoulos was in the ward as well as statements from the staff who cared for him.

Last month, District Court Judge Jo-Anne Deuter ordered the hospital hand over a substantial number of the documents, but declined to grant release in its entirety.

The court heard many of the documents had been admitted during an inquest in 2016 before Coroner Mark Johns who found that Mr Lambropoulos' death was avoidable.

Mr Lambropoulos died on November 30, 2013, five days after weight-loss surgery.

Mr Johns found Mr Lambropoulos' post-operative recovery was hampered by his weight, sleep apnoea and the combination of pain killers and anaesthetic medication in his system.

Evidence was presented during the inquest that 33 recorded alarms sounded in a 40-minute period to alert staff that Mr Lambropoulos' oxygen levels were plummeting.

Mr Johns concluded staff had thought the alarms were a result of faulty readings and had not acted on them.

He said the question of whether Mr Lambropoulos should have been sent to intensive care, rather than high dependency, was "not the real issue" of the inquest.

"(An expert witness) was of the opinion that a properly staffed and functional (high-dependency unit) would have been able to deal with Mr Lambropoulos quite easily," Mr Johns said in his 2016 findings.

The civil case continues.









Originally published as Hospital's breach of care 'inexcusable' says doctor

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