A DISCIPLINARY committee of the Health Professions Council of SA has fined Secunda anaesthetist Dr Hannelie Schoeman R10 000 for improper conduct, for administering scoline to a patient despite knowing she responded negatively to it.
The six-member committee, chaired by Pule Moaka, took into consideration the arguments raised by Schoeman’s legal representatives and her co-operation with the council throughout the investigation into the November 2009 incident.
“We had to strike a balance and take into consideration the committee’s interests and the offence itself,” Moaka said.
Before his arguments for leniency Schoeman’s lawyer, Stephen Farell, submitted a guilty plea. He explained Schoeman’s personal and professional circumstances leading up to her administering the muscle relaxant knowing full well that the patient had scoline apnoea.
The patient “told me of her previous response, of respiratory problems, after being given scoline”, Farell read from the plea explanation.
“I immediately realised that I had overlooked the information I had, so I informed the theatre staff and stayed with her throughout surgery.
She kept the patient under her scrutiny and monitored her vitals, reversed the anaesthesia and then went to her ward with her.
“When we realised there were no complications she was discharged.”
Schoeman had been 33 weeks pregnant at the time, and at that advanced stage had suffered sleep deprivation and also had a heavy workload.
“In addition to those physiological problems I was one of four specialists operating in Secunda. The work demand was high but after the incident I altered my schedule and reduced my hours to make sure it did not happen again.”
Schoeman had also self-rehabilitated, the lawyer said, adding that his client was cautious, thorough and committed.
He asked the committee to caution and reprimand his client rather than fine her, saying she had cut back her hours and lost 40 percent of turnover.
Asking for leniency if the committee decided to fine her, he said: “She contributes to expenses in her household, of her husband and two children, and her income is pooled to benefit her family.”
The minimum fine of R5 000 would be better, the lawyer said, because any financial penalty would affect the family.
“The committee has considered everything – from her personal circumstances to the community interest, the fact that she has been remorseful and co-operative,” said Moaka. “Having taken that into account and the seriousness of the offence we fine her R10 000.”