Women who accused a senior male gynaecologist of bad behaviour are relieved he is retiring as allegations from a third patient come to light.
RNZ had previously reported on separate allegations that the gynaecologist had asked one young woman if he “had a chance with her” and a second woman if she was ready to lose her dignity, before going on to insert a speculum into her vagina without warning.
As allegations from a third woman were about to surface and after RNZ put these allegations to the hospital, Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora and the hospital confirmed Friday the doctor was to retire following a period of leave.
“Following discussions, we can confirm that the clinician concerned will be retiring at the end of their annual leave period. This will lead into their retirement from a long career,” the statement said.
It also confirmed the hospital had been looking into these claims and apologised to the patients affected.
“We sincerely and unreservedly apologise to any patients who have experienced distress,” Health NZ said.
Emma (not her real name) was the first woman to make allegations against the doctor after an appointment in February left her feeling shocked and uncomfortable.
In that appointment, she claims, the gynaecologist asked if he “had a chance with her” as he carried out a colposcopy – a visual exam of the cervix.
The gynaecologist emphatically denied any inappropriate behaviour towards the young woman.
Now, Emma is relieved at the news of his retirement.
“Overall, it’s brought me some happiness and some peace of mind knowing that this person isn’t going to be working anymore and that these incidents are going to stop,” she said.
Emma was not sure about the apology from Health NZ.
“They shouldn’t be the ones that have to apologise. The doctor should, but I mean I’ll accept it, that’s as good as it’s going to get.”
Bridget (also not her real name) is the third woman to make allegations about the same doctor. She has mixed emotions about his retirement.
“At first, I was sort of relieved at the thought that no other patients were going to have to navigate this sort of awkwardness and discomfort but then I felt kind of frustrated because it also feels like a way for him to get away without any consequences – if I can say that.
“Some of us have to live with, what is now for me, a very present anxiety around gynaecology appointments.”
Bridget went to the hospital for her first colposcopy in April last year.
She was 28 at the time, and was referred to the hospital after having an abnormal smear.
“Initially when he was explaining what a colposcopy was when I was just first in the room and sat down chatting, he said ‘oh you know it’s not a dignified procedure’ and then he said it again once I was getting into the stirrups.
“He actually said that it was an undignified procedure about three times which made me feel quite uncomfortable.”
Bridget said the doctor also downplayed the need for her to even have the colposcopy.
“[He said] I think this might be a slight overreaction, we can have a look at what’s there, but I don’t think you need to worry about it. It’s not going to be cancer.
“And it turned out that actually they did find cancerous cells and I did need to go back for a procedure to remove them.”
Once the procedure got under way, she said, the doctor did not communicate with her – rather with a student doctor who was present for the appointment.
A nurse was there too.
“He was actually chatting; I imagine he was sharing with the student doctor what was happening but he was not sharing with me so he put the speculum in without actually saying this is what I am doing, is that okay? He just sort of did it.
“The nurse was the one who then said, oh what he’s just doing is putting the speculum in.”
Once the colposcopy was over, Bridget said the gynaecologist went on to make a comment about that same student doctor during a post-procedure conversation.
“He was talking about how I needed to take iron and he actually made some quite rude comment about the student doctor in the room.
“He was sort of like oh, you know because you might look dog-tired and be pale and that can be because of anaemia but he was referring to the student in the room.
“He also made some joke about how women don’t listen, which irritated me.”
She felt she could not speak up in the moment.
“It’s one of those situations where the power dynamic in the room is quite strange so where ordinarily I might have pushed back on that sort of sexist joke I just was a bit shaken up by the procedure that had just happened and wanted to get out of there.”
When Bridget did leave the nurse walked her out, gave her a business card, and told her to get in touch if she had any follow-up questions.
“She was so lovely, and she was checking that I was okay.”
RNZ has approached that nurse, but she did not wish to comment.
Bridget had to return to the hospital to have cancer cells removed, and soon.
That meant booking another appointment with the hospital’s gynaecology clinic for a minor surgery.
The nurse on the phone offered for Bridget to have a different doctor.
“She said now your last appointment was with [unnamed doctor]. He has quite a quirky sense of humour and not everybody always feels comfortable seeing him so would you like me to book you in with someone else? And then listed a couple of other doctors and I said yes please.”
However, the only appointment that worked out was with the same doctor meaning Bridget had to see him again – this time for a minor surgery.
She felt anxious but needed the operation as soon as possible.
At the second appointment, Bridget said the doctor repeated an off-colour comment.
“I still felt uncomfortable. He used the phrase ‘undignified’ again [in reference to the minor surgery.]”
Bridget said that, otherwise, he was more professional and said sorry for initially playing down the chance she had cancer.
“He did apologise, he said well you’re probably not very impressed with me because I told you that you wouldn’t have cancer and here you are.”
Bridget considered complaining but didn’t, worried about the prospect of going back to the hospital for future treatment.
She knows another woman, a colleague, who told Bridget she had a bad experience with the same doctor 15 years ago.
They made the connection while talking about Bridget’s experience when she returned to work.
“My colleague had quite an emotional reaction when we realised it was the same doctor.”
Now Bridget said the impact of what happened has stuck with her.
“I went for a procedure where they chopped a lump off my cervix and yet the thing I felt I had to recover from was feeling patronised and shamed in that process.”
The doctor did not respond to requests for a response to these latest allegations.
Health NZ and the hospital could not comment further on the gynaecologist’s retirement.
Copyright © 2022, Radio New Zealand
A woman has accused a gynaecologist of asking if he “had a chance with her” during an examination, and says a nurse did nothing to stop him.
Another woman has come forward claiming bad behaviour by a senior gynaecologist during a vaginal exam.
A senior gynaecologist accused of making lewd comments to patients during vaginal examinations has retired.
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