An obstetrician investigated for performing unnecessary and irreversible surgeries on women’s reproductive organs has been the subject of complaints to a patient advocacy group for at least a decade.
Guardian Australia revealed last week that obstetrician and gynaecologist Emil Shawky Gayed is alleged to have engaged in unprofessional conduct while working at the Manning Rural Referral hospital in Taree, New South Wales.
He resigned in 2016 after the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) started investigating his conduct. The HCCC alleges Gayed carried out procedures such as hysterectomy and fallopian tube removal in women who could have been treated with painkillers and bed rest, or less invasive procedures.
But the president of the Medical Error Action Group, Lorraine Long, told Guardian Australia on Wednesday that her organisation had received complaints about Gayed for the past 10 years.
“He should have been struck off years ago,” Long said. “He has quite a history. I know of patients who had to go to John Hunter hospital in Newcastle for repair after being treated by Gayed.”
Gayed’s case was heard before the NSW civil and administrative tribunal last week. The tribunal heard he failed to detect a patient was pregnant before performing surgery on her that could have affected her foetus, and when he discovered her pregnancy after the surgery he paid for her to fly to Sydney to have an abortion.
It was also alleged that he unnecessarily removed another woman’s healthy right ovary after she miscarried, and performed a hysterectomy on another woman without her consent.
Long said complaints about the same gynaecologists repeatedly causing women harm seemed to follow a pattern.
“They have this attitude – and I’ve seen it in a lot of complaints involving gynaecologists – of disliking women,” she said. “So they treat women in this way almost like a punishment.”
Gayed did not return Guardian Australia’s calls.
Monica Bolton was one of almost a dozen women to contact Guardian Australia about Gayed after his case was reported.
She said that after her usual obstetrician went on holidays in 2006, Gayed took over management of her pregnancy. She was diagnosed with placenta accreta, a serious condition that occurs when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterus and does not detach from it during childbirth. Bolton had the condition with her previous two pregnancies.
She was supposed to have a caesarean to avoid complications from the condition, but she gave birth prematurely. After giving birth, she thought she would be put under general anaesthetic so the placenta could be removed, as was the case with her previous pregnancies.
“But Gayed said, ‘I’ll remove it manually,’ ” Bolton said. “It was extremely traumatising lying on a theatre table knowing he had his hand up me. He ended up tearing my uterine wall.”
She said she passed blood clots for seven days and remained in hospital. When her usual obstetrician returned from leave, Bolton said he was shocked and immediately ordered an ultrasound, blood transfusion and surgery to repair the damage.
“It was easier to try to bury what had happened to me rather than going over and over it,” she said. “I didn’t have the fight in me to take action.”
Another woman told Guardian Australia that after she gave birth to her son in July 2002 she required stitches to repair tears on her vagina. Gayed was the doctor who performed the procedure.
About three months later, once she had healed, she realised she had extreme difficulty during intercourse and could not have sex.
“I made an appointment at the community health centre to see a female doctor,” she said. “She examined my vagina after I complained about the difficulty I had with intercourse. She told me that my vagina had been stitched together. She said she had seen better stitching by first year medical students.”
The woman said she was only 20 at the time, and had to go to the John Hunter hospital to have her vagina repaired. She said she still struggles with intimacy and has lost trust in obstetricians.
The president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Prof Steve Robson, described the complaints against Gayed as “shocking”.
“People need to speak up about their medical colleagues who they have concerns about,” Robson said. “They have an obligation to mandatorily report. I’m unbelievably distressed and frustrated if this hasn’t happened.”
He said most specialists were caring professionals who did the right thing, and he encouraged women and their family to complain if they felt they received poor treatment.
The investigation by the HCCC found seven women received inappropriate medical treatment from Gayed, and many did not give informed consent to major surgery. The complaints spanned several years.
The tribunal will deliver its decision at a later date.
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