An intolerable operating experience
Children’s heart surgery relies on anaesthetists who are comfortable with difficult operations and intensive care. There were recurring defects in Wright’s work environment and serious or fatal complications persisted without explanation.
In 1983, one anaesthetist’s techniques were found unsuited to complex surgery and Wright suggested that they should not work together on such cases. The Anaesthetics Department immediately accused Wright of incompetence. An enquiry found none and surgery resumed with the first-time-ever assistance of intensive-care staff of the Prince of Wales Hospital.
The NSW Health Commission knew of other complaints and asked Wright to list details of anaesthetic defects which endangered his patients. When this information was published, the anaesthetists threatened to restrict all services to the paediatricians unless they agreed to cease all cooperation with Wright. His further surgery on children became impossible.
His damning reports mentioned the following matters:
protracted, damaging insertion of airways, gastric tubes and catheters in children; lacerations and perforations of upper body veins; unstable, leaking infusions; insecure connections in essential conduits; experimental drug choices; unrecorded infusion details; excessive drug dosages; absent and falsified charting; concealment of vital X-rays showing faulty tube-positioning; failure to remove a misplaced airway tube for one year; absent and uncontactable rostered staff for emergencies; phoned orders to junior nursing staff; 31 of 33 senior staff reported other major faults.
The Hospital Board launched a corrupted enquiry into Wright’s performance. There were no peers or due process and critics’ CVs were falsified. Major documents were “lost” for 20 years. Expert evidence supported his competence but Wright rejected all further association with the hospital.
Dr Wright's damning reports mentioned the following matters: