By Wendy Jasson da Costa

A disgraced gynaecologist and obstetrician who applied for a job at Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg has been barred from ever practising medicine in Western Australia again.

The KZN Health Department confirmed this week that the doctor, who allegedly botched gynaecological operations on women in Western Australia - and who is under investigation in connection with more than 100 other cases - had, with the help of an employment agency, managed to secure a job at Grey's Hospital, before the management there cancelled the contract.

"He could not produce credentials. They then investigated his background and learnt that he had problems in Australia so they never gave him the job," said the Health Department's Desmond Motha.

Just how close he came to practising in this country is evident from Grey's Hospital's 2007/08 annual report which stated that Dr N Patel had been appointed as a "consultant in the department and will join us from Australia in January, 2008".

"He has a wealth of experience in endoscopic surgery and will, no doubt, be an asset to the department."

The scandal was widely covered by the Perth-based Sunday Times last weekend.

A report said the judge presiding in the matter had described the doctor's behaviour as "disgraceful or dishonourable".

The newspaper said the doctor, who was involved in what could possibly be the state's biggest medical scandal, was believed to be living in South Africa with his wife, who was also a doctor.

The paper said that at the time he was caught lying to South African health officials, he was subject to 13 disciplinary proceedings by the Medical Board of Western Australia.

Evidence presented to the tribunal indicated that during the same period that his conduct was under scrutiny, his wife had written to a recruitment consultant about finding employment as a radiographer, preferably in Cape Town.

False declaration

The paper also reported that the judge found that the doctor had made a false declaration to the Health Professions Council of South Africa, stating that no proceedings were pending against him in any country.

He had also provided fake certificates of good standing from the Medical Board of Western Australia and failed to disclose the actions against him in a phone interview with a senior officer at Grey's Hospital.

He signed an application for employment which stated he did not have a disability even though he had been certified unfit to practise due to illness in January 2007, the newspaper reported.

It said most of the allegations had been kept secret for more than three years after the doctor's lawyer argued he was suicidal and that publicity would worsen his depression.

It said that in the past year an international contingent of psychiatrists had been asked to assess the mental health of the doctor and all of them had found he had depression, but their opinions differed on the severity of his illness.