LATROBE Regional Health have responded to the Herald Sun story in which they uncovered a probe into ‘avoidable’ deaths at the regional hospital.

The Herald Sun reported that at least seven patients since 2022 have died in tragic ways, with whistle blowers claiming they could have been avoided at LRH.

LRH Chief Executive, Don McRae responded to the now infamous report, which ran on the front page of the Sun’s Tuesday, March 26 issue.

“Seven cases were reviewed by Safer Care Victoria following a complaint. Four of the patients had died,” Mr McRae said contradicting the report.

“None of the cases were considered a ‘sentinel event’, which is a preventable serious safety event resulting in the harm or death of a patient.”

Mr McRae said that each of these cases were reviewed by internal committees at the hospital – following standard procedure. These reviews are commonly undertaken to identify any gaps in care or possible improvements.

“A subsequent review and a site visit by Safer Care Victoria (SCV) identified the opportunity for quality and safety improvements in our surgical program. Many of these were already underway prior to the review,” Mr McRae said.

“We continue to look for ways to enhance and strengthen our services and systems right across our organisation, regardless of SCV’s findings.”

“The site visit team commended LRH’s clinical governance, including internal reviews of our processes and our efforts to establish a safe and sustainable surgical program in collaboration with Alfred Health.

“It also highlighted areas for improvement which we had not considered. These observations are beneficial.

According to the Herald Sun, complaints of medical malpractice, poor treatment, and misdiagnoses have surfaced from 2022 and 2023.

In one example, a patient with a burst appendix allegedly waited 24 hours after arriving at the emergency department for surgery. Another patient died at the hospital without being seen by the on-call doctor.

The Express has seen internal memo’s with the chief executive labelling the news story as “incorrect”, “disappointing” and “largely inaccurate”.

The Herald Sun made reference to a whistle blowers comments stating that LRH was running on “skeleton-staff”, with new expansion upgrades and no employees to fill it.

Mr McRae urged staff not to “dwell on the negativity” of the “inaccurate media reports”.

The Express received reports of a hospital insider unsurprised at LRH’s infamous notoriety.

“The tone-deaf memo …. typifies the organisational ignorance, complacency, and arrogance that continues to result in substandard healthcare and adverse patient outcomes. The astonishing lack of accountability, denial of issues, and deflection are characteristic of the attitude to staff concerns, which has always been ‘nothing to see here’,” they said.

LRH insiders have given evidence of a toxic workplace culture, alledging zero accountability is taken from executive level and downward.

Mr McRae says that LRH’s “values and culture promote continuous improvement and patient safety will always be the priority”.

The specific cases revealed by whistle blowers in the Herald Sun were:

  • Patient 1: “Failure to provide the necessary attention and timely intervention. The delay in providing appropriate treatment ultimately resulted in the loss of their life.”
  • Patient 2: “Medical staff failed to accurately diagnose their condition and administer the required treatment. The on-call surgeon never once attended to the patient.”
  • Patient 3: “Ruptured appendix. Operated on 24 hours after presentation. Additional concerns raised about post-operative care.”
  • Patient 4: “Failure to diagnose and institute treatment on time resulted in their death.”
  • Patient 5: “Untimely death due to negligence.”
  • Patient 6: “Serious morbidity due to medical negligence.”
  • Patient 7: “Medical negligence and poor patient management.”

Opposition shadow Health Minister, Georgie Crozier has vowed to get to the bottom of these “shocking revelations”.

“The Minister for Health (Mary-Anne Thomas) must answer why this cover-up took place, how such fundamental failures of care have occurred, and why the Minister kept this scandal secret,” she said.


Update: Minister for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas said Gippslanders can still remain confident with their care at Latrobe Regional Health. Photograph: Zaida Glibanovic

Ms Thomas didn’t take the allegations of ‘cover-up’ lightly, mentioning that while there had been an investigation into seven deaths, none were found to be avoidable as The Sun article alludes.

“What that investigation found was that none of those deaths were classified as sentinel – that means that they were not preventable deaths,” the Health Minister told the press.

The Minister for Health said it was “really important that we deal in facts”

“Safer Care undertook that investigation; of those seven deaths, they found… four adverse findings – which for Safer Care Victoria, in the way in which they classify these incidents, means there are learnings to be taken from those incidents,” she said.

Ms Thomas stated that Safer Care Victoria reports on sentinel occurrences in the health system on an annual basis and that she will disclose the report as soon as it is available.

However, the health minister stated that she would not share the Safer Care inquiry into the seven fatalities at Latrobe Regional Health because it involved individual cases and had “sensitive medical information”.

Ms Thomas stated that Gippsland residents had no need to worry as Safer Care Victoria was collaborating with the hospital to ensure reforms were implemented.