Medical Council stands by decision to register rogue doctor

The Medical Council is standing by its decision to register an American doctor after mistakes he made during a birth contributed to the death of a baby.

Obstetrician Enrique Tomeu was found to have breached guidelines during the birth of Ella McMillan-Meager at Southland Hospital on June 10, 2006.

A report released by Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson this week found Dr Tomeu had attempted to cover up evidence of his failings.

Mr Paterson referred the case to the director of proceedings to decide whether Dr Tomeu should face disciplinary charges.

Ella's mother Felicity McMillan said earlier this week the Southland District Health Board had gotten off lightly over the incident as they had known Dr Tomeu was facing malpractice suits in America when they hired him.

The Cuban-born, United States trained doctor closed his practice in Virginia Beach four years ago after repeatedly being sued for allegedly injuring babies during delivery.

Medical Council chairman Professor John Campbell said yesterday the council stood by its decision to register the doctor and it was not a mistake, based on the information it had at the time.

However, an informal review of the registration process would be conducted, he told The Southland Times.

"If similar situations arise in future where someone with a similar sort of background (to Dr Tomeu) and similar issues comes before council again - then clearly what's happened here informs the decisions we make (in future)...

"You've got to add this additional information in your future decision-making; you've got to learn from this and you do learn from this."

He said Dr Tomeu's registration application had gone before the entire council after he informed them of the malpractice suits, but it was not uncommon for American doctors to be facing such lawsuits and his qualifications were sound.

"There are some specialities that are more at risk than others and O and G (obstetrics and gynaecology) is one of those," Dr Campbell said.

The commissioner's report said during the birth Dr Tomeu attempted to dislodge Ella's umbilical cord from around her neck, lifting it and causing tearing at the navel.

A witness said he pulled very hard several times and delivered the baby's head with a yank.

Ella was treated in the hospital's neonatal unit where clinicians believed she was bleeding into the space between her skull and scalp.

She was transferred by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital but died on June 12.

Another doctor and the midwife gave independent and consistent evidence that Dr Tomeu deliberately asked them to make false entries in the clinical record.

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