Emotional and financial ruin: Jane Thompson. Photo: Tamara dean
It was seven years ago that Jane Thompson's world was turned upside down by a hospital tragedy after which the Health Care Complaints Commission attempted to frame her – twice.
In her own words, she "will never rest" until she can be certain it will not happen to another nurse.
Ms Thompson was an anaesthetic and recovery nurse at Bathurst Hospital when, in June 2007, a 29-year-old woman, who had just delivered a baby by caesarian, came into her care. The mother died from a post-partum haemorrhage.
The case was investigated internally with a 20-page departmental report later forwarded to the NSW Coroner.
While no concerns were identified about nursing care, issues were raised about the medical supervision of the patient.
Despite the subsequent 2009 coronial inquest also clearing Ms Thompson of any adverse findings, the HCCC, for reasons unknown, pursued her as though she was responsible, attempting to prosecute her on seven charges through the Professional Standards Committee. At that hearing, an investigation of call records confirmed she had informed doctors of an unfolding crisis immediately.
When she was finally exonerated in 2011, the HCCC ignored its own legal advice and relaunched its pursuit of the beleaguered nurse, this time through the Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal – which, in November 2012, also dismissed the case.
At the same time, the HCCC repeatedly failed to act on a string of complaints relating to the cocaine-addicted neurosurgeon, Suresh Nair, who continuously crippled patients through botched operations at Sydney's Nepean Hospital before his arrest in 2010.
Nair later pleaded guilty to manslaughter of a sex worker and and to supplying the cocaine that killed another escort.
''This case, my case, haunts me every day,'' Ms Thompson said. ''Even seven years down the track it is my last thought at night. It ruined my career, destroyed my marriage, affected my children's lives and left me in financial ruin. To now know that the HCCC so aggressively pursued me for six years while at the same time allowing a known rogue doctor to destroy lives is bewildering.''
To this day Ms Thompson is at a loss to explain why the HCCC ''cherry picked'' her for prosecution and yet overlooked the other health professionals involved in the case, over their alleged neglect.
''Today they continue to practise in their chosen profession unaffected by what they did and did not do,'' she said.
Bathurst Hospital's head of intensive care, Brendan Smith, who compiled the hospital report for the NSW Coroner, is equally baffled.
''The HCCC has a responsibility to ensure that when they start an action, there are reasonable grounds to do so,'' Professor Smith said.
''To this day they have never explained why they went after Jane. All too often they don't just prosecute, they persecute individuals who could be perceived as easier targets than others. In other cases, like that of Suresh Nair, the HCCC blatantly ignores all evidence.
You get cowboy plumbers, cowboy electricians ... you also get cowboy doctors. We want the profession cleaned up as much as the public. But while the HCCC continues operating in this way, this simply isn't going to happen.''
The HCCC was unavailable for comment.