Newman praises transparency in Vega Vega case
ROCKHAMPTON doctor Antonio Vega Vega told of his deep regret for removing the wrong kidney from a young woman during surgery after he was granted the right to practise without conditions.
The Spanish-trained doctor, who is on an overseas holiday with his family, has apologised to the woman's family for the "adverse result" of his seven-hour surgery on her at the Rockhampton hospital on January 22 this year.
Dr Vega Vega, in a statement released through his lawyer, said he had "exercised the utmost care".
"The operation took place on the correct side," he said.
"I had no warning that the organ which I removed - and which was located where I expected the intended organ to be and which had the expected appearance of the intended organ - was, in fact, the incorrect organ.
"I also regret that I was unable, when the error was discovered, to communicate the news and my apologies to the patient and her family, personally.
"I deeply apologise to them, now."
The Medical Board of Australia's decision to suspend Dr Vega Vega, and later impose a condition allowing him to practise with supervision, were set aside on Friday.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren said Dr Vega Vega did "not pose a serious risk to persons".
He said Princess Alexandra Hospital urology director Dr Simon Wood testified that if he or one of his colleagues had performed the same surgery, even with the most experienced Brisbane surgeons, the same outcome could have occurred.
"He knows from personal experience that the removal of the wrong organ or injury to an organ due to disorientation and due to the abnormal anatomy has certainly happened in highly-regarded tertiary referral centres in recent times with surgeons that were very well supported with or without consultant assistance," he said.
Judge Horneman-Wren said he believed Dr Vega Vega's decision to perform the complex surgery on the young woman in Rockhampton, instead of transferring her to Brisbane where he could seek help from other specialists, was "reasonable".
"Often the risks of not operating would be more serious than those associated with performing the surgery," he said.
"These are matters for judgment. I'm of the opinion that Dr Vega Vega is capable of exercising that judgment unburdened by conditions on his registration.
"The evidence has not established that deciding to perform the surgery in Brisbane would have led to the procedure having been performed any differently.
"The evidence has not established the adverse outcome is likely to have been avoided."
Dr Vega Vega thanked the Rockhampton medical community for its support.
He said he looked forward to resuming medical practice in the Central Queensland city.
"I acknowledge that investigations into my conduct are ongoing and look forward to assisting in these to the best of my abilities," he said.
The Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency, acting on the medical board's behalf, has indicated it will continue reviewing the limits on Dr Vega Vega's registration as new evidence became available.
There are four other notifications of allegedly botched surgeries under investigation.
Premier Campbell Newman said he was confident there was a much better oversight system in Queensland than two years ago.
"I have to compare and contrast the sad events at Bundaberg with what's happened at Rockhampton," he said.
"In Bundaberg ... you had a culture of cover-up and denial, with the issue at Rockhampton, terrible though that may be as well, you've had openness and transparency and a determination to deal with the problems and be forthright with the community.
"So that's real progress."