Nursing whistle blowers
Toni Hoffernam is a senior nurse who blew the whistle on surgeon Mr Jayant Patel while working at Bundaberg hospital, in Queensland. She originally began to raise doubts about the ability of Mr Patel after a high number of patients experienced poor outcomes after his surgery. Both doctors and surgeons who were familiar with his work had also been deeply concerned. When hospital management repeatedly failed to act, Hoffman went to the local media.
Courier Mail journalist Hedley Thomas did a Google search on Jayant Patel and found that he had faced disciplinary action for negligence in the United States.
A subsequent inquiry showed that more than 20 complaints about Mr Patel had been mostly ignored by hospital management. The case went to court. In 2010 Mr Patel was sentenced to seven years’ jail after being found guilty of three charges of manslaughter and one count of grievous bodily harm.
Toni Hoffernam was eventually given the Order of Australia and Local Hero recognition in 2006. She was praised by Queensland MP Rob Messenger for bringing incompetent surgeon Jayant Patel to trial.
While Hoffman has no regrets for advocating on behalf of patients she was undermined and ridiculed by staff who resented her whistleblower actions. She subsequently took legal action against Queensland Health for failing to support her. In early March 2012, she was awarded compensation in a private settlement.