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Gander man claims minister of health contributed to causing his son severe, permanent physical damage

Health Minister Dr. John Haggie.
Health Minister Dr. John Haggie. - SaltWire Network

Haggie faces malpractice suit

This province’s health minister is being sued for medical malpractice.

The Telegram has learned Dr. John Haggie is one of five doctors named in a lawsuit, filed in Newfoundland Supreme Court by Kirk Collins of Gander on behalf of his son, Marcus Collins, claiming their improper treatment and care for a ruptured appendix caused his son severe and permanent physical damage.

However, it seems Haggie has not yet been informed of the lawsuit. When The Telegram called Haggie’s office Friday, inquiries were directed to Haggie’s lawyer, Peter Browne.

The court document states there were seven ways in which the doctors and staff were negligent in treating the boy.

Browne told The Telegram he is unaware of any legal action regarding this case and suspects Haggie has not yet been served with any documents to notify him.

“I would think if he were served in relation to a matter that involved his medical practice while he was a surgeon, in all probability I would be retained to assist him,” Browne said. “But I can tell you from this point in time, I have no knowledge of this and I suspect the minister does not either.”

The statement of claim in the case was filed in December 2017. According to court staff, all parties must be served within a year.

Dr. Shawn Tiller, Dr. Andre Van Zyl, Dr. Rasheed Kadhem and Dr. Javed Akhtar are the other doctors named in the case, along with the Central Regional Integrated Health Authority and Eastern Regional Integrated Health Authority.

On Feb. 3, 2011, Marcus Collins visited the emergency room at the James Paton Memorial Hospital in Gander complaining of severe pain and swelling in his abdomen. He was vomiting and had diarrhea. According to the court documents, Tiller, the attending physician, prescribed pain medication. Van Zyl was also present and assessed the boy, who was discharged and sent home shortly after.

The boy returned to the hospital the next day, experiencing the same symptoms, but this time they were more severe.

Kadhem started Marcus on a course of antibiotics to treat appendicitis, the document states, but when Haggie was called to give a second opinion, he concluded the boy did not have appendicitis and stopped the antibiotic treatment. Instead, he treated him for Norwalk virus and rotavirus.

However, the boy continued to have severe symptoms. His parents requested that Haggie examine the boy again, “but (Haggie) did not return to see (Marcus) for several days. When (Haggie) returned to see (Marcus), he repeatedly refused (his) parents’ requests for an ultrasound,” the document states.

On Feb. 10, 2011, a week after the initial hospital visit, Kirk Collins told the head nurse and Haggie that he would remove Marcus from Haggie’s care and drive to St. John’s.

“At this point, (Haggie) capitulated and a pediatrician examined (Marcus) and determined (he) required surgical medical care,” and that he needed to go to the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s. He was taken there by ambulance that day.

While at the Janeway under the care of Akhtar, it was determined the boy had a ruptured appendix. The next day, he underwent laparotomy and appendectomy procedures.

“As a result of the care and treatment or lack of care and treatment rendered to the plaintiff by the defendants … the (boy) sustained injuries, including, but not limited to severe damage to his bowels and other organs, and has been permanently injured,” the court document states.

“He has endured, and likely will endure in the future, further various medical procedures intended to treat his aforenoted injuries. He has sustained losses and impairments, including, but not limited to, a loss of his enjoyment of life.”

The court document states there were seven ways in which the doctors and staff were negligent in treating the boy. It claims they:

• did not use due, reasonable and proper skills or care;

• failed to exercise the degree of knowledge, skill and diligence;

• failed to follow accepted medical practice;

• failed to check or monitor the plaintiff’s condition with sufficient frequency or care and to respond appropriately;

• failed to prescribe and implement the appropriate medication, treatment or therapeutic procedures required to alleviate the condition of the plaintiff and prevent complications from arising;

• failed to properly, adequately or timely diagnose and treat the condition of the plaintiff;

• failed to observe the injuries and damage occurring to the plaintiff; and • failed to take any, adequate or timely steps to prevent injury and damages.

“In the alternative, (Collins) alleges that (his son’s) injuries, losses and damages were caused by the … malpractice, negligence and breach of contract of the defendants or their employees, agents and staff.”

Collins is seeking special and general damages, but doesn’t give details, and also wants the defendants to cover the cost of proceedings.

It’s not the only malpractice lawsuit Haggie is facing. He faces at least two others.

In a case filed in February 2016, former patient Marc French claims Haggie, a practising surgeon at James Paton Memorial Hospital at the time, punctured his colon during a colonoscopy on March 27, 2014, leading to a series of ongoing health issues and follow-up medical procedures to correct the effects of the puncture.

In another case involving another former patient, filed in January 2015, Terry Oake of Gander claims he ended up in the intensive care unit at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s as a result of Haggie’s negligence when Haggie performed on him an esophagogastroduodenoscopy — a test to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine — at the James Paton Memorial Hospital. Oake said Haggie didn’t tell him it was an elective procedure and didn’t warn him of the risks.

The defendants have filed a defence in that case, but no court date has been set.

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