Bega hospital patient released too early, surgeon Chris Phoon says

Chris Phoon operates on David Stokes' leg in the South East Regional Hospital.

Chris Phoon operates on David Stokes' leg in the South East Regional Hospital.

A patient of surgeon Chris Phoon’s was sent home from hospital the morning after an operation, before being readmitted a couple of hours later when he took a turn for the worse. 

On February 28, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Phoon performed his last surgery at the South East Regional Hospital on David Stokes from Moruya. The surgeon has been embroiled in a public stoush with the hospital’s management after it chose not to renew his contract, although steps have been made to offer him his job back on a temporary basis. 

Mr Stokes needed a half knee replacement, after having the same operation on his other knee six months ago, but the next morning when he believes he was still under the effects of the anaesthetic he was told by staff they wanted him to go home.

His wife Helene collected him at 4pm that afternoon, but an hour later he went pale, clammy and started fainting, which she said was “scary” to watch. They turned around and drove back to the hospital where he was readmitted straight away. 

“He was obviously just too ill to be released. But if you’re told by medical staff to go home, you go home,” Ms Stokes said. 

Dr Phoon said he attempted to see his patients, including Mr Stokes, on Wednesday after his contract finished, but was told by management he was not allowed. 

He said normally patients are seen by their doctor after an operation and they make the decision when they should go home, but he expected Mr Stokes to be in hospital for at least three days after surgery.  

“I’ve never heard about a patient from Bega hospital with a knee replacement being sent home after 24 hours,” Dr Phoon said. 

On Friday, Mr Stokes was preparing to be released after the full three days. His wife said they had nothing against the staff, but felt he would not have been sent home if Dr Phoon had been there the next day.

 A Southern NSW Local Health District spokesperson said Mr Stokes was discharged on Wednesday as he reported feeling well. 

“The average length of stay for this type of surgery, if uncomplicated, is either the same day or next day following the procedure, as per health guidelines,” they said. 

“Mr Stokes underwent a routine, uncomplicated procedure on Tuesday morning. 

“[He] would not have been discharged if it was felt he was not well enough to do so,” the spokesperson said.