The Weatherill Government’s wrongful suspension and dismissal of former Director of the Cardiac and Thoracic Surgical Unit of Flinders Medical Centre, Professor John Knight, will cost taxpayers more than $6 million.
The Supreme Court was told this morning the Weatherill Government had agreed to pay Professor Knight $4.34 million to settle a legal claim he pursued against SA Health.
Shadow Health Minister Rob Lucas said this was a serious case of Government incompetence and financial mismanagement, and that total costs to taxpayers would be more than $6 million when the Government’s legal costs were included.
“The costs of an expensive coronial inquiry would also be additional to this $6 million figure,” Mr Lucas said.
Professor Knight lodged his claim in the Supreme Court in early 2012 alleging breach of contract, defamation, conspiracy and injurious falsehood.
In October 2009, former Health Minister John Hill used parliamentary privilege to name Professor Knight regarding the death of a patient at Flinders Medical Centre and indicated he had been suspended from his employment.
Minister Hill also revealed the Crown Solicitor’s Office had been asked to inquire into the matter.
Even after the Coroner’s inquiry exonerated Professor Knight and criticised Health Department officers, Professor Knight’s contract at FMC was still terminated after a brief period of re-employment.
“The fact that the Weatherill Government has agreed to such a massive taxpayer-funded settlement is a clear indication of the incompetence and financial mismanagement of the former Health Minister and SA Health officers,” Mr Lucas said.
“The Weatherill Government has caused significant damage to the professional reputation of one of South Australia’s leading surgeons, and Mr Hill and Minister Snelling should have the courage to issue a public apology to Professor Knight.
“There are two tragedies here. Not only will taxpayers have to pay the $6 million-plus cost of this bungle, but a leading medical professional was lost from the public health system, never to return.”