ACT News


Surgeon's case hits more delays

A CASE involving a Canberra orthopaedic surgeon accused of making mistakes on patients has been delayed, even though the ACT Medical Board has been investigating his latest controversial surgery for seven months.

Richard Hocking is taking legal action against the ACT Medical Board, which is trying to impose a tough set of restrictions on him because it claims he poses a ''serious risk''.

The ACT Supreme Court lifted the conditions from Dr Hocking while he challenged the board's decision in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Dr Hocking's defence argued the surgeon was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the latest allegation about surgical errors.

The tribunal had set aside last Thursday and Friday to hear the case.

Dr Hocking submitted an 18-page statement, plus about 130 pages of supporting documents, just before the close of business on Wednesday afternoon.


At the hearing on Thursday the board's barrister, Ken Archer, argued he and his team had not had enough time to analyse the contents of the documents.

''There's still no explanation given as to why that [document] has been served 12 hours before this hearing,'' Mr Archer said.

''There was no indication given to this tribunal that it was the intention of the applicant [Dr Hocking] to file more documents.''

Dr Hocking's senior counsel, Kylie Nomchong, argued the case should proceed.

She said information in the statement should not have surprised the board, particularly because it related to a surgery under investigation by the board for the past seven months.

The fresh allegations against Dr Hocking relate to claims made by Sydney surgeon Michael Solomon.

He alleged a surgery by Dr Hocking - which involved an arthroscopy followed by a periacetabular osteotomy (a form of hip dysplasia treatment) - was contrary to accepted medical practice.

Ms Nomchong said statements from witnesses in the case would show opinion differed about what was accepted practice.

She said the restrictions placed on Dr Hocking were a ''thinly veiled attempt'' to stop the surgeon practising.

If the restrictions were imposed they would force Dr Hocking to have another surgeon in the theatre with him from ''gloves on to gloves off''.

She said the continuing case was causing significant stress and anxiety for Dr Hocking and his family, and that he posed no threat.

Dr Hocking had learnt from past mistakes and was willing to take part in mentoring.

As The Canberra Times reported in August, to protect the public Dr Hocking had been stopped from doing certain surgeries unsupervised - including trauma surgery involving major pelvic injuries.

He was also told by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to do at least a year of retraining.