Sydney hospital removes wrong part of organ

Not gonna lie – this story makes me incredibly nervous.

Last week, a man underwent a surgical procedure at Northern Beaches Hospital (NBH) in Sydney and had the wrong side of his bowel removed.

The hospital, which is a brand new $600m facility that only opened at the end of last year, has blamed “mishandling the patient’s pathology results” as the cause of the botched surgery.


I’m no doctor, and I don’t mean to be indelicate, but: doesn’t a diseased bowel look very different to healthy organ tissue? And more importantly, were there several steps in place to prep for the procedure before the surgeon gloved up – and they all failed to nudge the operating team in the right direction?

It’s scary to think that this type of mistake can happen in Australia. The patient, who was being treated for cancer, has since gone under the knife a second time for surgery on the correct part of his bowel.

The thing is: we all make mistakes at work. For me as a writer, I might make the mistake of misquoting a source. At the really serious end of the scale, I could be accused of plagiarism.

But that doesn’t compare to the potential impact of a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, pathologist or other healthcare professional, because when they make mistakes there are obviously lives at stake…

This story makes me particularly nervous because I will soon be jetting off to Sydney for a medical procedure – and headlines like this do very little to lessen my anxieties!

You might wonder: why am I heading south of the border for surgery, when we have the brilliant, $2bn Gold Coast University Hospital on our doorstep?

The type of surgery I need, which is related to a hernia, is quite specialised. My GP’s exact words were: “The success of your procedure will really come down to the expertise of your surgeon.”

A friend of a friend has an uncle who has specialised in this precise type of surgery for over 30 years – hence my decision to drag my sorry self to Sydney for the procedure.

I better check and see which hospital he operates at, though.

And I’m predicting quite a few nervous patients at NBH this week…