FORMER Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel has escaped further time behind bars for lying about his medical credentials to get a job in Queensland.
The 63 year old has already served 919 days in custody during an extradition process from the United States and while serving time for criminal medical negligence convictions that were later quashed in the High Court.
Judge Terry Martin sentenced Patel to two years jail on four fraud charges but suspended the sentence entirely, meaning he is free to return to the US, where his wife works.
"This brings to an end a lengthy, tragic chapter in the history of Queensland,'' Judge Martin said of the Patel scandal.
"You have been heavily punished and I dare say will continue to suffer the consequences of your stay in Queensland,'' he told the disgraced surgeon.
"There seems little doubt your career is forever ruined.
"Of course you are the author of all the misfortune that has resulted from your totally undeserved employment in Queensland."
Speaking outside court, Patel thanked his supporters and his legal team, saying he was looking forward to returning to his family and work in the US.
"This has been a long and very difficult journey," he said.
"I'm pleased that it's over and I'll be going back to my life and my work.
"I would like to thank the hundreds of well-wishers that I don't even know, who stopped me in the street, gave me words of encouragement and wished me well.
"Finally I would like to thank all my friends and family for their selfless and unconditional love and support."
He did not answer any questions from the media.
Health regulators to seek order against Patel
AUSTRALIAN health regulators have today re-activated disciplinary action against Dr Jayant Patel "to ensure the ongoing protection of the public".
The Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency will seek an order preventing Patel from seeking registration as a medical practitioner in Australia.
Patel has not been registered or able to practise in Australia since April, 2005.
The authorities will allege in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal that Patel twice provided false and misleading information in his applications for registration, his clinical care to a number of patients was below the standard reasonably expected and his conduct amounted to unsatisfactory professional conduct under the relevant law.
They have already served a referral notice to Patel.
The tribunal will set a date for the hearing into Patel's professional conduct in due course.
Patel condemned by judge for deceptive conduct
Earlier the judge condemned Patel's deceptive conduct.
"He sought, deliberately, a job in surgery to which he was not entitled through incompetence," Judge Martin said.
Patel had been restricted from performing abdominal and other gastric-related surgeries after medical negligence allegations were investigated in Oregon.
He was "effectively struck off" the medical roster in New York where he had been worked when they learned about the restrictions in Oregon.
Patel disclosed the restrictions when he applied for a job in regional Oregon but was refused a position.
When he applied for the senior medical officer position at Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2002, he did not disclose the restrictions.
Patel ticked "no" to questions about any restrictions, suspensions or cancellation of his surgical abilities when he filled out forms for his Queensland medical registration and employment.
He has pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud related to filling out those forms when he arrived in Australia and again when he renewed his position at Bundaberg.
Crown prosecutor Peter Davis told Brisbane District Court those actions were manifestly wrong and dishonest.
He said Patel deliberately avoided a system Queensland Parliament set up to maintain standards in the state's hospitals and stop people with his history working in them.
Mr Davis said Patel not only took a job where he would conduct surgeries in an area he was restricted but also took on a mentoring role where he would be instructing others in surgical practices.
"The potential for damage is enormous," he said.
But Mr Davis said the Crown was not pushing for any more time in custody, noting Patel could be returned to the United States within a short time after sentence.
Patel forced to live in isolation for five years, says lawyer
Defence barrister Ken Fleming also submitted Patel should be given a suspended sentence.
He said his client was forced to live in isolation during the past five and a half years in Australia because he was subjected to public vilification.
Mr Fleming said Patel was dedicated and committed to the Bundaberg hospital during the two years he worked there.
He said Patel was a vital triage doctor during the Bundaberg tilt train tragedy and taught the people he mentored while working in Wide Bay.
"He worked exceedingly hard at his job in Bundaberg," he said.
"That work Dr Patel did in Australia was conscientious."
Judge Martin said Patel had no choice because if he did not keep his job, he was unlikely to get surgical work in any other first world country.
Mr Fleming said Patel had awards in the United States for his teaching and had many medical articles published.
"Patel has had an otherwise unblemished record criminally," he said.
The fraud pleas were entered last week after the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions sensationally dropped manslaughter and grievous bodily harm charges related to alleged criminal medical negligence surrounding surgeries at the Bundaberg hospital.
Patel was previously convicted of three manslaughter charges and a grievous bodily harm at trial and sentenced to jail.
But the High Court quashed those convictions and sent the cases back for retrial.
A jury found Patel not guilty on the first manslaughter trial and another jury could not reach a decision on the grievous bodily harm charges.
Patel's wife, who he married in 1972, is a specialist in internal medicine and his daughter, 36, works at a prestigious hospital in New York, specialising in oncology, particularly prostate cancer.
Patel has a six-year-old granddaughter.
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