A doctor working at a Sydney boarding house where six mentally ill patients died in the space of 14 months has been suspended by the Medical Council of NSW from practising medicine.
Claude Reitberger was one of a number of health professionals who were slammed by a coronial inquest into the deaths at the 300 Hostel in Marrickville between June 2009 and August 2010.
The week-long inquest into the deaths of Shaneen Batts, Ilona Takacs, Dorothy Hudson, Ian Birks, Donald ManKellar and Mohammed Talet Ramzan from a range of causes revealed they were "uncared for, poorly treated medically and neglected".
"I could not avoid seeing … a Dickensian picture of over-sedated people reduced to a state of inertia or lethargy in order to keep them quiet," the NSW Coroner Mary Jerram said in her findings handed down earlier this year.
"The standards of hygiene and nutrition at the hostel were poor, facilities run down or not usable and overall care sadly lacking."
Underlying this, the coroner found, was a failure properly to treat the multiple serious health problems the six were suffering while living at the unclean, poorly maintained hostel.
Dr Reitberger was the GP for five of the deceased.
The NSW Medical Board website records that the practitioner has been suspended, and The Australian Doctor medical news website reports that his registration was suspended under the board's “urgent" provisions.
Dr Reitberger was roundly criticised by Ms Jerram in her findings.
She found that of one of the residents who died - Mr Birks - had suffered declining health for some months before his death, experiencing significant psychosis and an infection following the removal of a melanoma.
But Dr Reitberger's notes from a consultation conducted with Mr Birks not long before he died report nothing about the melanoma, and in his statement to the coroner he said he "didn't have any concerns about Ian's medical condition".
Dr Reitberger later admitted that his record keeping was "very poor" and the notes that he did produce were, according to the coroner, "uninformative in the extreme".
Ms Jerram noted that the doctor was part of a broader failure to provide a "consistent, or co-ordinated effort to treat and manage the significant risk factors of all these residents".