Family of a woman in Melbourne who died after CT scan requires change after coronal examination

The grieving family of Melbourne’s mother Peta Hickey says it will continue to seek justice over her death two years ago following a voluntary health check at work.

Hickey had an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used during a CT scan and died of multiple organ failure in May 2019.

Forensic scientist Simon McGregor has released his findings following an investigation into Hickey’s death.

He found failed checks and balances from health care providers, inadequate anaphylaxis training for radiologists and a well-meaning but short-term health program in the workplace all contributed to the death.

The family of the 43-year-old mother of two has described her as a beautiful, warm, generous and cheerful person.

“Right now, Peta should be thrilled with our daughter Maggie as she prepares to start ‘the big school’ next year,” said husband Richard Hickey.

“She should rehearse with our son Max for his upcoming performance in the school’s musical.

“Instead, we are preparing for the milestones and another Christmas without Peta, as we have been doing every day since she went to work two and a half years ago and did not come home.”

Richard Hickey is wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and is reading an out-of-court statement.
Peta Hickey’s husband, Richard Hickey, reads a statement after the forensic pathologist handed over his findings.(ABC News: Zalika Rizmal)

Hickey revealed that he and his wife’s family intended to sue the Victorian Supreme Court after reviewing the results in more detail.

Ms Hickey’s brother, Gary Hickey, said it was confrontational to sit through his sister’s examination.

“What became clear was that the cause of her death was due to so many errors,” he said.

“Those responsible in some way have to recognize their role and take ownership, if not for the health system of our country, then for ourselves. This can not happen for another person or family.”

Patients referred without having seen a doctor

Ms. Hickey worked for the work rental company Programmed in 2018 when her employer suggested she get a voluntary heart check after a colleague had a non-fatal cardiac arrest.

The study heard that Mrs Hickey had no history of heart problems and was not assessed by a doctor before the scan.

Instead, the company’s booking service, Priority Care Health Solutions, had used the electronic signature of its work environment consultant Dr. Doumit Saad on referral forms, despite never meeting patients.

The medical imaging booking service, MRI Now, used the referrals to send Ms. Hickey to the Future Medical Imaging Group (FMIG) in Moonee Ponds for a CT scan.

Forensic pathologist McGregor found that Priority’s decision to install Dr. Saad’s signature on the forms deceived radiology clinics, which received the referrals.

Peta Hickey 1
Peta Hickey died after suffering a reaction to dye used in a CT scan.(Delivered)

The study also heard that FMIG radiologist Gavin Tseng had only received general anaphylaxis training and was unaware of any resuscitation instructions displayed at the Moonee Ponds clinic.

McGregor said it looked like Dr. Tseng was not adequately trained or prepared for Mrs. Hickey’s severe reaction.

“Doctors Saad’s and Tseng’s behavior deviated from normal professional practice,” he said.

He found that Ms. Hickey died as a result of substandard clinical judgments and misadaptation of business incentives to engage others in facilitating the health check.

Maurice Blackburn’s lead lawyer Kathryn Booth has alleged putting a patient through an invasive heart test without first visiting a doctor was ill-conceived and negligent.

“It’s incredible, and as the forensic pathologist found today, her heart was fine. It was a completely unnecessary test,” she said.

Doctors referred to the health authority

Sir. McGregor found that the decision of Hickey’s employer Programmed to introduce the health check was well-intentioned, but did not take into account the risk of asymptomatic patients receiving CT scans.

He found that Programmed, Priority Care Health Solutions, MRI Now, Dr. Saad and Dr. Tseng all contributed to Mrs. Hickey’s death.

Mr. McGregor has ordered that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) be notified that Dr. Saad’s actions were unethical and insecure in allowing his electronic signature to be used on referrals to patients he had not reviewed, and Dr. Tseng had failed to recognize Mrs. Hickey’s allergic reaction and administered adrenaline.

The study found that FMIG’s policies and procedures for the recognition and treatment of adverse reactions met current industry standards.

The forensic pathologist has recommended a mandate for the whole of Australia that all radiologists working with contrast dye be trained to recognize and respond to severe allergic reactions every three years and be taught CPR.

He also wants an official review of appropriate screening for CT angiograms and other invasive heart tests in Australia.

McGregor has recommended that Commonwealth Health Minister Greg Hunt produce standard referral forms for diagnostic imaging.

He has called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to consider action on Priority Care Health Solutions and MRI Now.

The employer “deeply regrets” that well-meaning program led to death

In a statement, Ms Hickey’s employer, Programmed, welcomed the forensic pathologist’s findings.

“We were deeply saddened by Peta’s tragic death in 2019. Peta was a valued, respected and well-liked member of our team and she is greatly missed,” the company said.

As a company, we have welcomed the forensic pathologist’s recommendations, which include improving patient communication and preventive physician consultation in programs of this nature.

“While we have discontinued the Cardiac Health Assessment Program and our relationship with Priority Care, our focus has always been and continues to be to help members of our team proactively care for their health.

“Again, we would like to express our sincere condolences to Peta Hickey’s family.

“We are deeply saddened that a program implemented with the intent to help and protect our staff led to the tragic passing of a valued member of our team.”


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