A man has been awarded $184,645 in compensation after his doctor's medical negligence left him in a "holding pattern" to treat a corn on his right foot that ultimately deteriorated, causing him to suffer mental health issues and ongoing physical pain.
An ACT Supreme Court judgment on Thursday states that the plaintiff, a man now in his late 30s, in 2013 went to see Dr Soroush Ziaee at Tristar Medical Group for treatment and management of a corn on his right foot.
During the period until 2016 when the plaintiff saw Dr Ziaee 19 times, he was repeatedly prescribed painkillers and given advice about scrubbing his foot before it ultimately became infected and needed emergency surgery.
The plaintiff said that on or about February 5 in 2014, Dr Ziaee tried to perform an excision on the corn by sticking a needle in his foot before cutting a piece "about the thickness of my finger" out.
He said that after the procedure, Dr Ziaee put a bandage over his foot, prescribed painkillers and said words to the effect of "we'll see how it goes".
Dr Ziaee in his evidence said he could not remember what happened on that day, but he maintained that it was not possible that he had performed the excision.
In the three months following that procedure, Dr Ziaee referred the plaintiff twice for surgery at Canberra Hospital.
However, his case became "lost in the system" brought by a lack of follow up, among other issues.
In August 2016 when the plaintiff's condition deteriorated, he went to Calvary Hospital's emergency department, saying the lump was the size of his hand and that he could not longer withstand the pain.
Clinical notes state that he was in a wheelchair in obvious distress and crying before being transferred to Canberra Hospital "due to the speed at which the infection in his foot was spreading".
He was discharged from the orthopaedic surgery about two weeks later.
The ongoing debilitating pain has impacted the plaintiff's physical and social life, including not being able to drive his child to school.
"He could not go for walks with his wife, as walking on uneven ground was too pain," court documents state.
Acting Justice Verity McWilliam on Thursday found Dr Ziaee to have failed his duty of care towards the plaintiff only from mid-2014 after the referrals for surgery.
She said any treatment plan the GP had devised "appears to have lost its way".
"I have found that by December 2014, in light of the silence from Canberra Hospital and apparent lack of progress, a follow-up phone call or some attempt at communication with the recipient of the referral was a reasonable precautionary measure to take in order to ensure that the defendant's selected treatment course through referral was effective," acting Justice McWilliam said.
"I am not satisfied the defendant took any step from that date to satisfy himself that the plaintiff, as his patient, had not somehow got lost in the system."
Acting Justice McWilliam said Dr Ziaee's excision in early 2014 was not an inappropriate treatment even though it "did not fix the problem" and that the doctor's two referrals met the expected standard of care.
However, she said that by May 2015, the breach was "even more clear" as Dr Ziaee only managed the plaintiff's ongoing severe pain despite being aware the plaintiff's physical and mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, were worsening.
"Here, all that the defendant really did for a two-year period was manage the plaintiff's ongoing severe pain," she said.
"He did not in fact have any treatment strategy during that time, apart from periodic advice to scrub the foot."
During legal proceedings, numerous health experts also gave evidence about Dr Ziaee's treatment, in addition to a number of documents, including photographs of the plaintiff's injured foot.
The Canberra Hospital was initially a third party in the case, although not directly sued by the plaintiff as action against it was resolved before the court hearing.
Acting Justice McWilliam said the plaintiff should be awarded $184,645 in damages, which include loss of past and future earnings of $50,000 and past and future care of $53,925.
The case was will come before the court again in the new year to finalise the orders.
Dr Soroush Ziaee and the clinic have been contacted for comment.
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