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Investigations into suspected sexual abuse of unconscious patients

By Aoife Hegarty - RTÉ Investigates - 24.11.2021 - [IRELAND] - [Aamir Zuberi] Three separate investigations are underway into a series of complaints of suspected sexual abuse of unconscious patients by a doctor at Naas General Hospital, RTÉ Investigates has learned.

The investigations – being conducted by the Health Service Executive, the Irish Medical Council and An Garda Síochána – relate to the alleged conduct of Dr Aamir Zuberi, an anaesthetist who worked at the hospital since at least 2012.

The concerns came to light when several staff members from the hospital reported their concerns to hospital management, who in turn reported them to local gardaí. The allegations relate to four patients, with each of the suspected incidents of sexual abuse witnessed during 2016 and 2017.

However, RTÉ Investigates understands that it was not until December 2017 that concerns were first raised with hospital management in Naas. At that point, Dr Zuberi was placed on administrative leave with pay pending investigation.

One patient, who requested anonymity, described how he learned about his suspected abuse from gardaí. He told RTÉ Investigates that he was suspected of having been sexually assaulted following surgery to remove his appendix. "He called me. I said 'Is everything okay?' And he said ‘are you sitting down?’ And I knew it was serious then," the man said.

The garda went on to describe how several statements had been made about suspected sexual assaults of the man and others.

But, almost four years on since the complaints were received about Dr Zuberi, the patient has never had any contact from Naas General Hospital or the HSE.

"I got no correspondence from the hospital," the man told RTÉ Investigates. "Just to say that we are internally investigating this." "I’ve not even had an apology – just the recognition that they were looking into this. I haven’t got the words to say how I feel about Naas General Hospital. Nobody is accountable for anything."

The criminal case against Dr Zuberi has since stalled, because the doctor left Ireland and returned to his native Pakistan.

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said: "As a Garda investigation which includes liaison with Interpol, into a number of reports we have received of sexual assault at a hospital in the east of the country is ongoing, An Garda Síochána is not in a position to comment." Dr Aamir Zuberi also worked for several years at another leading Irish hospital prior to taking up employment in Naas.

RTÉ Investigates sent detailed questions to Naas General Hospital, including to ask if it had alerted the other hospital of concerns about Dr Zuberi’s behaviour or the criminal case pending against him.

But the HSE said the hospital "has been strongly advised that it cannot comment as to do so would unfairly prejudice the outcome of an ongoing Garda investigation". RTÉ Investigates understands that no formal lookback review, which could identify other potential victims, has taken place.

In a statement, the patient’s solicitor, Rachael Liston, of Liston Flavin Solicitors, said her client had "put his faith in Naas General Hospital and its healthcare professionals and serious questions now need to be answered by the HSE as to how an event of this nature could have happened to patients under their care when under sedation and at their most vulnerable".

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Council has confirmed to RTÉ Investigates that, following receipt of complaints against Dr Zuberi, it acted on the concerns within days. In a statement, it said: "On 20th March 2018, following an application by the Medical Council, the High Court made an Order which included an undertaking by Dr Zuberi not to engage in the practise [sic] of medicine until the resolution of a complaint before the Medical Council. That complaint has yet to be determined."

But despite Dr Zuberi’s undertaking, RTÉ Investigates discovered the doctor has in fact been working at a medical centre in northern Pakistan, where he is the clinic’s sole anaesthetist.

In response, the Irish Medical Council said, that the court order "only has affect [sic] in this jurisdiction". It noted that it would have alerted all other EU member states, but said the alert system "does not extend beyond the EU".

On foot of the information received from RTÉ Investigates, the Council added it will now "consider the appropriate steps that can be taken at this point".

RTÉ Investigates repeatedly emailed a series of questions to Dr Aamir Zuberi. But, despite reading the emails, he did not respond.

However, just a day after RTÉ Investigates corresponded with his current employer in Pakistan, the Aga Khan Health Service confirmed that Dr Zuberi had submitted his resignation, citing personal reasons. His resignation was accepted late last week.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.



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