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Patient death in Summerside addressed in medical misconduct hearing

Richard Kelly was 62 when he died in 2020 after undergoing a series of surgeries related to a hernia. (Submitted by Norma Costain - image credit)
Richard Kelly was 62 when he died in 2020 after undergoing a series of surgeries related to a hernia. (Submitted by Norma Costain - image credit)

The P.E.I. College of Physicians and Surgeons has begun a formal hearing into a complaint against an anesthesiologist who had been temporarily based in Summerside.

The complaint was brought by Norma Costain, the widow of Richard Kelly. In 2020 Kelly had several surgeries related to a hernia. After the last one, on Sept. 30, 2020, he died.

Costain, after reading hospital reports on what happened, made a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"I hope the hearing finds out exactly what did happen," Costain told CBC News as the hearing began Monday. "If he's in the wrong, I guess actions are taken and they'll see that this never happens to another person."

Dr. Sheshagiri Bengeri was a locum doctor at Prince County Hospital in 2020 and was acting as the anesthesiologist during Kelly's surgery, which was to repair a leak in Richard Kelly's small bowel.

Costain said Kelly, 62, was nauseous before the surgery.

Testimony from a surgeon said Kelly aspirated a significant amount of bile in the operating room, meaning it went into his lungs. The surgeon didn't know about the issue until Kelly's condition started declining.

Dr. Sheshagiri Bengari arrives at P.E.I. College of Physicians and Surgeons Jan. 30, 2024.
Dr. Sheshagiri Bengari arrives at P.E.I. College of Physicians and Surgeons Jan. 30, 2024.

Dr. Sheshagiri Bengeri arrives at the hearing Tuesday morning. The hearings are scheduled to go on for several days. (Laura Meader/CBC)

It would have been Bengeri's job, as the anesthesiologist, to tell the surgical team about the problem.

After the surgery, the medical team was unable to get Kelly's oxygen levels up.

Bengeri's defence lawyers pointed out that he and others were taking active steps to try and improve his condition.

The hearing is to determine whether Bengeri failed to maintain professional standards and procedures in the practice of medicine. In particular, it will examine how Bengeri prepared Richard Kelly for surgery, what he did to prevent the aspiration, how he reacted to it, and how he communicated with other staff.

The hearing is scheduled to take several days.