Graeme Reeves “Butcher of Bega” update


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As the three-month-old 12-detective Strike Force Tarella continues to investigate and accumulate evidence on a multitude of cases, retired Federal Court judge Deirdre O’Connor has completed a review into the employment of abusive doctor Graeme Reeves.

Reeves is the obstetrician/gynaecologist of “I’m going to take your clitoris too” fame. [More detail on that case here at Australian Doctor.]

The report reveals that contrary to denials issued by NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher, the Health Department knew about the restrictions placed on Reeves’ practice by the Medical Board – and ignored them, allowing him to illegally practise obstetrics at Bega and Pambula hospitals.

At his previous workplace, Hornsby Hospital, he was the subject of at least 35 reports relating to bullying of staff, communication failures, and failure to administer adequate analgesia or anaesthesia for procedures. He was sacked from Hornsby only after midwives refused to work with him. Hurrah for these brave midwives for putting their foot down, something which would have risked their own jobs at the time.

Reeves was also sacked from Sydney Adventist Hospital after complaints. The Hills Hospital reported to the Medical Board a “marked deterioration” in his work as early as 1996, after he repeatedly and aggressively abused nurses. The Hills Hospital is where he refused a woman antibiotics for staphylococcal septicaemia (“childbed fever” in the old language), despite repeated staff requests, insisting that she had “a virus”. The woman left a five-day old baby behind.

Reeves’ complete ban on obstetrics by the Medical Board came, again, after a series of complaints, including those relating to deaths. However, the Board continued to allow him to seek work in gynaecology without any legal restrictions – and Reeves ignored the ban anyhow, with the help of the Area Health Service.

Despite all of this history, Reeves was taken on in 2002 as an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bega and Pambula by the Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS) of New South Wales. His file was marked “not to do obstetrics“, but this was ignored. He reportedly continued to mutilate, abuse, and harass women, both patients and staff, and to lie to the medical board about his practice. He was eventually deregistered altogether in 2004.

The Medical Error Action Group has since documented more than 500 complaints about him.

The SMH reports:

The Health Department and Ms Meagher have said no background checks were done, but documents recently tabled in Parliament reveal that a senior health executive, the Deputy Director of Medical Services at GSAHS, Jon Mortimer, was aware of the ban but employed Mr Reeves anyway.

Mr Mortimer was suspended last week on full pay.

However, Ms O’Connor’s report said that the department failed to conduct checks with the NSW Medical Board.

She said that, while it was unclear whether the department was required to at the time – current policy now requires it does – the fact that the department was aware Mr Reeves had supervision restrictions placed on him required that it make further inquiries.

She said that Mr Reeves was spoken to by the Director and Deputy Director of Medical Services about providing obstetric services in defiance of the order in November 2002, and again in January 2003 and was told to only practise gynaecology.

All of this rampant, abusive misogyny has been blamed on his “psychiatric illness”. The diagnosis has not been made clear; some papers say he was “on antidepressants”, others that he had an unspecified “pervasive personality disorder with quite prominent narcissistic features”. (You can read a brief rundown on Cluster B Personality Disorders here.)

The report claims that some of the communication gaps regarding Medical Board background registration checks by public hospitals have been tightened up. NSW Health Director General Professor Debora Picone expects the public to feel “comforted” by this.

I don’t. Do you?

Categories: gender & feminism, health, law & order, violence

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8 replies

  1. Fucking enabling BASTARDS! Every individual (no fucking hiding behind their places of employment) who knew about his abuses and had the power to stop him should be fired and charged.


  2. I wholeheartedly second everything Book Girl said. And I wish someone would lock Reeves up in a room surrounded by the (surviving) women he hurt. And a lot of sharp objects. Let ‘em exact their own justice.
    Midgetqueens last blog post.."Suck butter from my ass."

  3. There obviously needs to be a new oversight system for the Health Service as well as the Medical Boards. Everything to do with investigating, disciplining and attempts to limit Reeves’ capacity to cause harm seems to have been done laggardly, reluctantly and ineffectually.
    No, I’m not comforted, Professor Picone.

  4. The first complaints came in 1986 only one year after he first started at Hornsby hospital. It seems that there were signs of abusive practices from the beginning.

  5. No, I’m not comforted, Professor Picone.

    This won’t surprise any feminists, but the biggest problem with reporting is not located in who rang who up in the Board/Hospital systems and who wrote what on whose file.
    It’s the hierarchical, patriarchal power structures within the hospital, where complaints from patients (lowest on the ladder) and nurses (higher) against abusive God-complex specialist doctors are dismissed, ignored and punished. Nurses and patients are examined and blamed (and examined and blame themselves) when they have problems or make complaints.
    And patients really are powerless. I’ve been one often enough to get a moderately good insight into what it can be like. I was the most “empowered” patient it’s possible to be, given that I’ve a medical background and medical relatives and most of my specialists were chosen by me/my relatives – yet, as an inpatient, I quite often felt like a piece of meat at the complete mercy of healthcare staff.
    I tried to sack a hospital pediatrician once, and was “dissuaded”. I’ve sacked two nurses, but it was bloody difficult, and speaking up and insisting on this was massively stressful for me at times when I really didn’t need the stress. (The vast majority of my care from nurses was respectful, caring, and competent; these two were outliers.)
    Note that Reeves was only sacked after midwives point blank refused to work with him, initiating collective industrial action – not after the multitude of valid complaints. They used the only power they had, but his patients, realistically, had no power to stop him, and no way of collectivising.

  6. Comforting? Surely they jest. I’m in a different bloody country, and I can tell you right now that if I required surgery on my reproductive organs, even to save my life? I would have to think about whether I want to run the risk of another sociopath like this being out there. I’d probably end up going back to my hometown and getting a relative, who is a surgeon, to personally watch the procedure, but God knows few people have that kind of contact within the health system.
    QoTs last blog post..Do I really need to raise my hand?

  7. Although I would probably handle things a little differently now, a couple of years ago I visited a locum at one of the few surgeries that would still handle patients in receipt of Centrelink payments.
    After the reason for my visit was over I asked him something about anal sex and sat riveted as the man went completely weird in front of me. He started muttering to himself and rubbing his hands together and kept on saying “Ah, you wanna take it up the arse, eh?” I managed to tell him that I found his language less than professional but I don’t think he even heard me. I cannot describe how entirely weird this whole experience was: it was like an alter ego had taken over. He was obviously displaced and even told me “We’ll make you up a nice little douche bag and hang it on the back of the bedroom door.” WTF?
    I left the surgery shaken and frightened – after all he had all my details in his notes – but two days later went back to confront him. He told me then a) the one about “lightening up and having a sense of humour” b)that if tried to say anything it was my word against his and who would believe a “bottom-feeder single mum” (I was at the time completing Honours for a double-degree and living off Austudy with my two teenage sons and c) if I insisted on going ahead with a complaint he would would insist I was unbalanced (I am bi-polar) and recommend psychiatric hospitalisation. Until to-day I’ve never spoken about it.
    Or the (also locum) skin specialist who made me remove ALL my clothes to investigate a suspected melanoma on my neck. No nurse was present. No screens were provided.

  8. How horrid, Cireena. And how sadly far from unusual.

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