Top doctor shot up on drugs taken from critical patients
The head of intensive care at an embattled Brisbane hospital who siphoned large amounts of leftover addictive painkillers from critically ill patients and secretly self-injected in the hospital toilets twice daily for months has walked away from disciplinary hearings with a paltry fine and a slap on the wrist.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal rejected submissions by The Health Ombudsman that Dr Hayden White deserved to be suspended from the profession for six months or fined $25,000 because he likely knew his prolonged secret drug taking at Logan Hospital was improper.
The Ombudsman argued Dr White's misconduct jeopardises the public and needed to be "resoundingly denounced".
Instead of suspending him, QCAT deputy president Judge Suzanne Sheridan and three other tribunal members ordered Dr Hayden White be fined $5000 and reprimanded for professional misconduct in her decision published yesterday.
He is allowed to keep working at the Logan ICU after his colleagues told the tribunal that without him the ICU workforce "would be under extreme stress."
Judge Sheridan also lifted a non-publication order which had been preventing The Courier Mail from identifying Dr White.
He was disciplined on three charges for conduct between May 2013 and mid-November 2013;
one charge of self-injecting the drug in the hospital toilets, one charge of misappropriating drugs due to be discarded and one charge of possessing a drug without a prescription.
The tribunal heard that Dr White was taking up to 70 mg of fentanyl twice daily up to five or six times a week.
The fentanyl was siphoned from drugs leftover from patients which Dr White was obliged to discard.
Instead Dr White, who had been the head of the ICU at Logan Hospital since 2006, "systematically misappropriated" the drugs because no record was kept of discarded fentanyl within the ICU at that time.
The tribunal heard there was "no evidence" that Dr White was intoxicated or affected by drugs whilst at work or that any patient was harmed while he was injecting the highly potent drug.
The Health Ombudsman argued his improper conduct was a risk to patients and Dr White's behaviour indicted a consciousness of impropriety because he concealed his "prolonged period of drug taking".
Dr White began to inject himself with fentanyl in the hospital toilet "in an effort to manage his considerable situational stress", the tribunal heard.
He found that the fentanyl took "the edge off" his anxiety and he began by taking 20 mg once or twice a week then the dose steadily increased to 50 mg and then to 70 mg, the tribunal heard.
His use increased to taking fentanyl twice daily up to five or six times a week, the tribunal heard.
Dr White's alleged "theft" of drugs was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission by the hospital in December 2013 but the Commission told the hospital to deal with the matter and "that it might consider referring the conduct to the Queensland Police Service".
In March 2014 Dr White was reprimanded under the Public Service Act, the tribunal heard.
The acting director of the Logan ICU and the nurse unit manager told the tribunal that Dr White should not be suspended because it "would have a negative impact on the ICU".
They argued Dr White is "an invaluable member" of the team and his absence "would increase the on-call burden" for the other consultants working in the unit.
The acting director of the unit gave evidence that the unit would be required to hire a locum and commented that "it might be difficult to source a locum that would match (Dr White's) clinical experience and breadth of knowledge."
The nurse unit manager told the tribunal that "suspension of his duties would severely impact upon the ability of the Intensive Care Unit to continue to provide care to the critically ill patients within our community and would place the (Hospital) ICU workforce under extreme stress."
Dr White submitted he had rehabilitated from his fentanyl addiction and had spent three months not practicing as a doctor, he was remorseful, has "good control" over his mental health and he was embarrassed for "his family and his colleagues".