Health complaints boss under fire

A national inquiry has been told how the NSW body responsible for dealing with complaints against medical professionals abandons investigations.

An allegation of child sexual abuse against a NSW doctor was not pursued by health regulators because the doctor had never responded, an inquiry has been told.

The investigation was then cancelled because the assault had happened 22 years prior to the complaint.

The head of the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), Kieran Pehm, came under heavy fire on Thursday at a child sex abuse hearing in Sydney.

The hearing is investigating how health regulators responded to numerous complaints against a doctor who was finally jailed for child sex abuse in 2011.

Over two days the commission in Sydney has heard from seven men who were sexually molested by John Rolleston, a doctor working in Sydney's north in the 1970s.

Rolleston, now 79, was jailed in 2011 but is now on parole and in bad health.

Three of the witnesses who had dealings with the HCCC have given evidence of long delays, being fobbed off or having investigations into their complaints abandoned.

Mr Pehm was asked about two cases, that of AWC and AWH.

On Thursday AWC, a 51-year-old businessman, told the commission the HCCC cancelled the investigation into the complaint in 2001 as there was "no public interest" in pursuing the matter.

He was told one of the reasons was that Rolleston had not responded to the complaint and because the alleged offence had happened a long time ago.

Commission chair Peter McClellan, asked Mr Pehm how the HCCC could use the fact an accused doctor had not responded as an excuse not to investigate.

"It defies belief," Justice McClellan said.

Mr Pehm said "Yes, I agree."

Mr Pehm also agreed that the HCCC's handing of a complaint against Rolleston by witness AWH was inadequate and could cause the complainant great distress.

AWH gave evidence that over an eight-year period he received bureaucratic replies asking for specifics such as dates, times and what clothes he was wearing, when Rolleston assaulted him when he was 12.

The HCCC, with Mr Pehm's approval, had ruled out a face-to-face meeting with AWH and insisted on written detail.

Mr Pehm apologised and said it was "completely to my discredit".

AWH told the commission in his eight-year dealings with the HCCC he always felt Rolleston would get off "because I was just so young and traumatised".

The stress caused him to consider suicide, he said, but when he told the HCCC of his distress he received another formal response.

Mr Pehm said he could now understand why AWH was devastated by the response.

"It is very cold, clinical, unresponsive and sort of `don't call us we will call you'".

The hearing continues on Friday when Mr Pehm returns to the witness stand.

Source AAP

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