Jayant Patel to face committal hearing in February 2009

September 1st, 2008 - 11:06 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 1 (IANS) India-born US doctor Jayant Patel, who has been in custody since March for having allegedly caused the deaths of his patients while working as director of surgery at an Australian hospital, will face court for a committal hearing in February next year.Prosecutor David Meredith was granted three weeks for the committal hearing beginning Feb 9 to 27, 2009, after the matter was heard at the Brisbane Magistrates Court Monday.

Meredith told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that more than 120 witnesses may be called for examination. An additional two weeks have been set aside in April to accommodate overseas or interstate witnesses who cannot attend during the initial hearing.

Patel’s defence team may be required to provide a list of required witnesses by Dec 1 and an order will be made in relation to this during the next review of the case on Sep 19, reports AAP.

The 58-year-old doctor, who has been in custody since March 11, when he was put behind bars at the high security prison in Portland, Oregon (US), had spent July 21 in custody at the Brisbane Watchouse after arriving from Los Angeles the same day. He was released on bail the next day after providing the required cash surety of Australian $20,000 ($17,000).

Under the bail conditions, Patel has to report to the police three days a week, not leave Queensland or approach an international airport. He has surrendered his passport and is not allowed to communicate with witnesses.

Patel has been charged with 14 offences, including three counts of manslaughter, two counts of grievous bodily harm, and fraud, relating to his employment as director of surgery at regional Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland between 2003 and 2005.

Earlier, on June 26, Patel had voluntarily agreed to his extradition to stand trial in Australia. His case is probably the worst medical-negligence scandal in this country. He allegedly falsified his application to practise medicine in Australia and then falsified death certificates and refused patients’ transfers to other hospitals to cover up “botched treatment and surgery”.

Patel, banned from surgery in two US states, was employed at the regional Bundaberg Base hospital for Australian $200,000 ($195,000) per annum in 2003. In late 2003, he was promoted to director of surgery at the hospital. On April 1, 2005, Patel’s bosses signed on a $3,547 business-class, one-way air fare for him to travel to the US despite him being neck-deep in accusations of fatal incompetence.

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