THE DECISION by Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch to indefinitely extend the legal rights of victims of negligent doctor Jayant Patel was discriminatory, according to a Brisbane injury compensation lawyer.
Solicitor Mark O’Connor claimed last week that while everyone hoped for the maximum amount of compensation for the Patel victims, the special treatment showed that other injury compensation victims were left to do the best they could “under the existing flawed system”.
Former patients of Patel were initially given a deadline of 28 April to apply for a special application for compensation from the Queensland Government.
But on Friday, the Attorney-General announced that the compensation scheme would remain open indefinitely, for the benefit of patients who hadn’t yet suffered ill-effects from Patel’s negligence, but might in the future.
“The Government wants to do the right thing by the former Patel patients,” said Lavarch. However, “the Patel patients are clearly being put in a separate class to other injury compensation claimants and there’s probably a political dimension to the decision”, said O’Connor.
The Queensland Government and health department were roiled by accusations of a cover up when the Davies Inquiry found in November last year that Patel had been responsible for up to 17 deaths and causing harm to at least another 31 patients at Queensland’s Bundaberg Hospital between 2003 and 2005.
So far, 353 claims have been lodged, but only 30 of those had been settled as of the end of April. Patient support groups had lobbied the Attorney-General to take into account those patients whose ill-effects hadn’t manifested by the 28 April deadline.
Victims are rarely granted such magnanimous treatment. Normally, under Queensland’s current injury compensation laws, victims must bring proceedings within three years of the negligence happening.
“No similar extensions are being offered to any other victim of medical negligence, and it begs the question — why not?” said O’Connor.
After being named in state parliament over medical malpractice last year, Patel fled to Oregon in the US, where he is still living. Police are currently attempting to extradite him to Australia, where they want him to face at least 28 manslaughter, fraud and assault changes.