Registrar made rude and condescending call to GP, inquest told

NEVILLE Ross intended to have a routine echocardiogram at Ballarat Base Hospital and see his cardiologist in a few weeks.

Instead, doctors stayed back late to perform an urgent CT-guided procedure to investigate and drain fluid from around his heart.

A Coroner’s Court inquest into the death of the Stawell father yesterday heard the 65-year-old developed an irregular heart beat in the middle of the 2009 procedure and died on the CT table.

The court heard Mr Ross drove himself, accompanied by his wife, to Ballarat on October 28, 2009, as he needed to get an echocardiogram to show his cardiologist in a few weeks. 

But when he got to the hospital, staff deemed his condition “a matter of urgency”.

Giving evidence to the inquest, consultant radiologist Manish Mittal said he asked the hospital’s fully-booked CT technicians if anyone could stay back and managed to arrange the procedure for 5pm.

He said pericardial tamponade – where blood or fluid collects in the sac around the heart – was “an urgent medical condition” needing prompt attention.

“It was a kind of medical emergency in my mind,” he said.

But Arthur Obi, the Stawell-based GP treating Mr Ross, said he was aware of his patient’s condition and saw no reason for haste.

Dr Obi told the court Mr Ross was admitted to hospital in Stawell in October 23, 2009, after picking up a chest infection, and was later advised to return for an echocardiogram and check-up. 

Mr Ross, unable to have an echo in Stawell, decided to go to Ballarat for it.

Dr Obi said on October 28 he received a “rude” and “condescending” phone call from a cardiology registrar at Ballarat Health Services.

“To paraphrase, they said you saw this effusion, you haven’t done anything about it, we’re going to address it since you have no plans for it,” he said.

Dr Obi said English was not his first language but he had been practicing medicine for 23 years and he knew his patient well.

Also giving evidence, forensic pathologist Paul Bedford said Mr Ross had two puncture holes on his right ventricle and blood and clotted blood inside his pericardial sac.

The blood would have entered the area sometime between the start of the procedure and his death, he said.

“I’m seeing a lot of blood around the heart ... I’m also seeing a defect in the right ventricle which can cause blood to enter the cavity,” Dr Bedford said.

“I’m unsure when the defect in the right cavity opened.”

The court heard Mr Ross had his left lung removed nine years ago for lung cancer, distorting his anatomy and shifting his heart into a different position.

Before the procedure, doctors carefully considered where to best insert the needle for drainage, the court was told.

The inquest continues in Ballarat today.

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