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Dutch 'doctor of death' operating in KZN

Dr Robert Muller was removed from Netherlands medical roll.

Dr Robert Muller was removed from Netherlands medical roll.

Published Oct 2, 2016

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Durban - A Dutch surgeon who was banned from performing vascular surgery in the Netherlands after being deemed “a real risk to the safety of patients” is practising at a KwaZulu-Natal hospital.

Dr Robert Muller, 62, came under fire in his home country after he was involved in the “avoidable deaths” of two patients at the Bethesda Hospital in the north- eastern town of Hoogeveen.

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At the time, the media compared him to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who was dubbed the “Angel of Death” for his work in the Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II.

In August, the KZN Department of Health employed Muller to work at the Ngwelezana Hospital in Empangeni. Within a month, he allegedly botched two operations. According to medical sources both procedures were “fairly simple”.

One of those patients was Jeanette Meyer, 58, who went to hospital on August 24 to have gall stones removed. After the surgery, she was notified that Muller had made a mistake and had cut off her bile duct. She was sent to King Edward hospital for corrective surgery.

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Her son, Shaun Meyer, said her health had taken a turn for the worse after Muller’s botch-up and she was in the process of taking legal action against the hospital.

“What was meant to be simple surgery turned into a nightmare. Muller told us that he had started the surgery on my mother and didn’t want to continue because she was swollen.

“We were later informed that there was a mishap and her bile duct had been cut off,” said Meyer.

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In the second incident, an operation on a 37-year-old man’s right arm went horribly wrong when Muller allegedly made an incorrect incision across the brachial artery. The patient lost circulation to his arm and had to have corrective surgery.

Dutch Healthcare Inspectorate spokeswoman Rianne Peek confirmed that Muller had been banned from performing vascular surgery following a compliance order it issued in 2013.

She said that after the ban, he voluntarily removed himself from the country’s medical professionals’ register instead of choosing to appeal against the ban. He was not allowed to reregister.

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Muller told the Sunday Tribune that he had been advised not to comment.

“I wish to inform you that I won’t respond to the allegations. Having discussed this matter with the chief executive at Ngwelezana Hospital, I was instructed not to respond.”

Meanwhile, the head of surgery at Ngwelezana Hospital, Dr Maheshwar Naidoo, was suspended last week. While no reason was given for the suspension – and no charges have been laid – it is understood hospital management is investigating numerous allegations made against him and his department. He was Muller’s supervisor. Muller was moved from general surgery to urology.

With Naidoo suspended, there was no consultant to oversee more complex surgeries resulting in delays, and patients being sent to other hospitals. It is believed the delays have resulted in the deaths of at least three people this week.

The hospital serves 19 district hospitals throughout Zululand.

Sam Mkhwanazi, the spokesman for the department of health, said: “It is not government policy to discuss internal matters with the media. The department can therefore not comment on reasons that led to a precautionary suspension of a doctor at one of its health facilities.”

He confirmed the department had employed a doctor from the Netherlands. “This doctor is employed as a medical officer as per his registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. The verification of a doctor’s qualification is done by the council, and not by the institution,” he said.

The council did not respond to queries at the time of going to press.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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