Colonoscopy ‘recall’: Almost 2000 Albury-Wodonga patients at risk

A surgeon named in a coronial inquest into a man’s death in NSW carried out procedures on up to 2000 Victorian patients whose cases will now have to be reviewed.

The patients all had colonoscopies at Albury Wodonga Health, Albury Wodonga Private Hospital, and Insight Private Hospital in Albury between 2018 and 2022.

An independent panel of experts reviewed procedures performed by Dr Liu-Ming Schmidt since 2018, finding evidence that some colonoscopies performed or supervised by Schmidt were “incomplete” or lacked thoroughness.

The review affects residents in the Wodonga region, in northeast Victoria, as well as the adjacent town of Albury in southern NSW. Credit:Getty

A recent coronial inquest in NSW heard that Schmidt performed the surgery on the wrong end of a man’s colon in 2019. The man in his 70s died from complications of peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the abdominal wall and covering the abdominal organs) following the error.

It is expected that many of Schmidt’s patients will now need to undergo a new colonoscopy as a precautionary measure.

A colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny camera to look in the bowel, for patients who have bowel problems or other symptoms, or have done a bowel screening test that has returned a positive result.

Almost 2000 public and private patients have been impacted by what Victoria’s healthcare safety watchdog, Safer Care Victoria, is describing as a recall.

Schmidt is not currently practising in the Albury-Wodonga region.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) shows that she is still free to practise medicine, without any conditions, undertaking or reprimands.

Her principal place of practice is listed as Albury.

An AHPRA spokesperson said that the national medical practitioners regulators did not have “any jurisdiction to examine allegations concerning registered health practitioners based in New South Wales, nor can it order conditions on their registration to protect the public while such investigations are carried out”.

They said under Australia’s National Laws, all allegations about health regulators in NSW must be referred to NSW bodies.

Safer Care Victoria chief executive Professor Mike Roberts said while the risk for most patients was expected to be low, it would be a distressing time for patients and their families.

“We’ll ensure each patient is supported and offered counselling throughout this recall, with those impacted to be contacted directly over the coming days and then individually assessed, with any follow-up care to be completed as quickly as possible.”

Safer Care Victoria said each patient would be contacted and “assessed individually by a highly skilled independent clinician”.

“Once this assessment is made further treatment will be prioritised in order of the level of risk identified by the clinician as well as the patient’s individual health needs. Not every patient will need a follow-up colonoscopy, but it is important we assess cases individually to ensure those affected are getting the care and support they need.”

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