Dobbing on Dr Raad
by Nicholas Shakespeare
Dr Maurice Raad was a large, chubby South African, 53-years old, with a prominent mole on his right cheek. He appeared harassed on his first morning. As he bustled about the room, opening and closing cupboards, he chatted about Tasmania – he was new to the island, but looked forward to working in Swansea at least five years. He wondered aloud about the Japanese restaurant on the highway.
It was a late April morning in 2001 and my wife had taken our seven-month old son to the Swansea surgery for a routine jab – the final set of shots for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. This was the first week of the new doctor and she was curious to see what he was like, or even if he would be there. It’s hard to attract GPs to rural locations and the peaceful town of Swansea on Tasmania’s east coast (population: 1,000) has a high turnover given how beautiful it is: four doctors in four years.
My wife lifted Max’s trouser leg for the injection. Max cried a little and that was that. Before she left, Gillian asked Dr Raad to please record in her book what exactly he had done. He wrote something and they shook hands. “It was all very casual and pleasant.”
Next day, I came in with a blocked ear. Dr Raad revealed during a fleeting examination that he had practiced for 16 years in the townships of Crossroads and Mitchell’s Plain. I was impressed. I’d been to Mitchell’s Plain, near Cape Town, and was aware how dangerous it was for a white person to visit even for an afternoon – and Raad had worked there 16 years. I asked if he knew the Valkenburg Hospital nearby: one of its senior doctors was a friend and I had stayed with his family. But suddenly Dr Raad didn’t want to talk about South Africa. He prescribed something for my ear and I left.
At the pharmacy I handed over the prescription and was given a gigantic bottle of cherry-flavoured cough mixture. It was a curious remedy for a blocked ear, but I had other things on my mind. In two days we would be flying back to England.
My last image of Dr Raad. It’s the morning of our departure. He stands in the Swansea Corner Store, clutching a packet of Willem II “optimum tube” cigars and scanning a shelf for videos. He’s obviously settling in well because he tells me that he’s looking for a house to buy. I wish him luck and get into the car and drive my family to the airport in Hobart.
Max was very ill on the flight. He vomited, and screamed for most of it.
A month later my wife received a frantic email from the Swansea surgery asking her to call. Did she have records of what Dr Raad had done to Max? The tone of voice suggested a problem.
Gillian looked in the red child health book issued to all children in the UK at birth. Dr Raad’s handwriting was difficult to decipher, but it indicated that he had administered the MMR vaccine. This was a surprise. It wasn’t what she went in for, nor what she had discussed with him and was completely contrary to the schedule which clearly stated that the MMR was administered to children between 12-18 months. In the space for the batch number Raad had written 25/07/01. Gillian spoke to her sister, a doctor, who said it was malpractice not to write the batch number. He hadn’t written the correct date either – he was three months ahead of himself. In the box for the date he had scrawled his name.
Of course, we were concerned. Although our son was outwardly a healthy boy, the following weeks involved us in trips to two other doctors, until it became evident that Max had not had any further reaction to the shot. Dr Raad had probably injected him with sugar water.
On our return to Swansea several months later, we discovered that Max had been more fortunate than most of Maurice Raad’s patients. Before his removal from the practice on May 18, that is to say three weeks after his arrival, Raad had sowed a trail of quite exceptional devastation. In fact, during his 22 days as Swansea’s GP he seemed to have had difficulty completing a single medical procedure without the assistance or the intervention of his increasingly alarmed staff. What was surprising since his expulsion and the arrival of a new doctor was the extent to which the community had clammed up. His former patients were reluctant to take him to task for the distress he had caused or even to query those who had recruited, employed and supervised him. “No one complained,” I was told by Jeanette Voss, CEO of the May Shaw nursing home to which Raad’s surgery was attached. “Doctors as far as people here are concerned are God.” Apart from a short, hard-hitting piece by the ABC’s Judy Tierney on the 7.30 Report, Dr Maurice Raad might never have existed.
I, too, was tempted to leave it at that; but perhaps because of what he had done to Max I couldn’t stop thinking about the sort of doctor it was who didn’t care what injection he gave a seven-month child. I was angry that Raad had been allowed to practice at all and also puzzled about a screening process so porous that a person like Raad could slip through. People in Tasmania tend not to ask questions, perhaps out of fear of retribution or anxiety about rocking the boat, but it seemed to me that this is what happens if you don’t ask questions. You get as your GP a fantasist who has been struck off the medical register, who has practiced in Tasmania before – on a brief and disastrous occasion five years previously; and whose surname was not even Raad.
The story of Maurice Saadien-Raad begins many thousands of miles from Swansea in Perth, Western Australia, and a private company called River Medical Services (now Gemini Medical Services) that is employed by local and State government to supply, manage and supervise doctors in remote areas of Australia. The founder is Tim Haggett, a UK-trained doctor who started River Medical in 1995 and currently controls more than 30 medical clinics in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. On his web site, I find the following: “Dr Haggett’s efforts are focused on providing comprehensive and quality medical services to the bush and the key to this has been successful recruitment of suitable doctors to work in these challenging positions.”
In March 2001, unable to locate a doctor on their own, the Swansea council contracted River Medical to find a GP to replace Dr Terry Lyons who was leaving with his family for Bruny Island. Haggett’s office got in touch with Medcotech International, a similar recruitment organisation in South Africa, who reckoned they had just the person.
Maurice Raad’s CV was at first glance inspiring. Haggett telephoned him in Cape Town and they had a conversation that appeared to confirm his credentials.
Raad had a medical degree from Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg; before that, he had been “vice-head boy” at Pinelands School in Cape Town (where he conducted the school choir and won a prize for wood work). Since qualifying as a doctor in 1974, he had held a number of intriguing positions: medical officer at Modderfontein dynamite factory, registrar in surgery at the University of Beirut, researcher in human genetics at the University of Cape Town (during which time he published three academic articles, one for the British Medical Journal of Radiology and two for Clinical Genetics, including, astonishingly for a man who in Swansea proved almost illiterate, a paper on Autonomic Recessive Inheritance of Metaphyseal Dysplasia). Following a graduate course in Edinburgh, Raad became a GP in Crossroads and Mitchell’s Plain where he had a patient base of 4,000 and led the cardiac-arrest team for an entire hospital. Accident and Emergency was Raad’s speciality. By 1990, he had built a private practice comprising two 24-hour emergency clinics and employing 24 doctors, 8 sisters, 12 nurses and “numerous administrative staff”. His operational experience was extensive. He performed tonsillectomies, defribillations, deliveries and caesarian sections, treatments for anaphylactic shock, “avulations of toes and finger nails”. Plus psychoanalysis and counselling. It cannot have surprised Dr Haggett that a man of such superior skills could have been considered for a position as Deputy Director-General of Health in the Western Cape; nor that after many dedicated years at the medical coal-face he should have decided to relax in his last post as a ship’s physician for Carnival cruises, sailing “from Miami around Cuba every 7 days”.
Of three references provided by Dr Raad two were from South African doctors who enthused about how he was “truly loved and revered by his patients” and highly recommended him for any appointment for which he applied. The third referee was A.W. Meiring, a regional magistrate in Port Elizabeth where Dr Raad had been his family doctor. “He was instrumental in saving my life,” wrote Meiring, whose handwriting was troublingly like Raad’s. He considered Raad to be “honest, reliable and responsible as well as extremely efficient in practising a high calibre of medicine.”
Maurice Raad, in fact, gave every impression of a responsible and cultured man. He spoke English, Afrikaans, Arabic and Xhosa. His interests included: travelling, reading, writing, squash, sailing, soccer, gym and surfing. His health was “excellent”. And the type of position he sought? “Rural locum in Tasmania.”
On March 22, River Medical wrote to the Swansea council: “Dr Raad is perfect for this position.” Two days later, they emailed Raad a brief profile of the Swansea practice. “Please note that this does not even come close to describing how attractive this position/area is!” A fortnight later, on April 8, Raad was on his way. Everyone seemed happy, not least River Medical. For finding Dr Raad, Dr Haggett’s company could expect an annual remuneration from the Government of $20,000. Plus 40% of whatever income Raad generated, estimated by River Medical at between $130,000-$150,000 per annum.
The desperate shortage of doctors in Tasmania is such that “if a guy has a stethoscope round his neck you give him a guernsey,” jokes Bob Welch, former CEO of the Mersey Community Hospital where Raad was once momentarily employed. The pressure to have Dr Raad begin work in Swansea as swiftly as possible meant that he was spared the laborious round of HIV tests, X-ray examinations and police checks that are the experience of most immigrants prior to being allowed entry into Australia. Instead, Raad was fast-tracked on his arrival in Hobart where River Medical had organised his programme. Tuesday, 10 April: “9am. Chest x-ray (for Immigration)… 12.30pm Medical Examination…2:00pm Submit Visa Application Form…Set up Bank Account.” A process that normally takes months was being wrapped up in three days. But on the third day a fly appeared in the ointment.
At 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, April 12 Raad was interviewed by Registry officer Monica Latham at 2 Gore Street, the premises of the Medical Council of Tasmania. Moments after Raad had left the building clutching his interim registration, Latham discovered that he had seriously lied in his application. On learning this, the MCT did not cancel his registration, but they did immediately telephone Raad to ask for a written explanation. That same day they contacted River Medical to say that they had granted Raad until the next Council meeting, at the beginning of May, to clear himself, and that depending on his answer his registration might or might not be ratified.
Meanwhile, he was allowed to proceed to Swansea where an unsuspecting and grateful community prepared to welcome its new doctor.
Raad arrived in Swansea on April 20. “River Medical told us nothing about him,” says Lyn Lewer, who was the practice manager, “so we assume this is the first time he’s worked outside South Africa.”
Records for this period have vanished from the surgery’s data-base, but fortunately Lewer kept her own record. Her initial impression was of a jovial and well-connected divorcee with expensive tastes who was eager to tell people what they wanted to hear. He was a teetotaller, a Christian, a champion of the underprivileged. In Cape Town, where one of his sons played apparently for the national soccer team, he owned a huge three-bathroomed house with servants, but “money means nothing to me”. He’d been to the White House and to Buckingham Palace where he’d met the Queen. On his Carnival cruises, he’d had his own ER room with four nurses and helicopters to fly patients out… But despite all this, he was tremendously happy to be in Swansea where he moved into the doctor’s residence in 6 Rectory Street and where he hoped to be joined in the near future by a woman referred to as “my lady friend”.
“He couldn’t believe how lucky we were to live here,” says Lewer, who recalls how Raad used to park his complimentary car, a green Falcon, and skip to the entrance of the surgery where he greeted the staff with “hellooo” in a high-pitched voice. “Now is that not odd? A big man, skipping.”
It wasn’t the only odd thing that Lewer noticed about Dr Raad. For starters, there was his reluctance to be photographed. One day she brought in a digital camera and offered to take snaps of him to email home. It was the unique occasion when Raad protested that he was too busy. She said: “Oh, well, I can take them later today.” But that night he didn’t come in to say goodnight, as he always did, and he left work by the emergency exit.
Odder still was Raad’s behaviour regarding his telephone. “He didn’t want River Medical to know of his private calls, but he had a problem with his mobile, which didn’t work in this area. I lent him my mobile and said ‘Why don’t you get your own line?’ and I rang Telstra to have his phone put through. But they refused because he had an outstanding account: he owed money in the Northern Territory, where he’d been an air-force doctor. Raad denied everything. He told me in front of witnesses that he had never worked in Australia before, he’d only been as a tourist. Telstra said that he would need an affidavit to swear that the other Maurice Raad wasn’t him. Not a problem, he said. So I went to the Post Office to get a form. Meanwhile, he sent the receptionist to get his passport photocopied for his date of birth and told her under no circumstances to look at any other pages.”
In the surgery, too, his behaviour drew comment. On his first day, that is to say minutes before Gillian came in with Max, Raad had opened a black notebook and asked Jo Brown, the senior nurse, “Now what medications do you take for chest infections?” and written down the medication she advised. The same for urine infections. “And if someone comes in with asthma?”
Brown remembers: “He was always saying, ‘Oh what do you reckon we should give?’”
Some patients were fortunate enough to know their medication. A woman named Paula told me how she consulted him about her skin rash. “He said: ‘What would I give you if I was you?’ I told him. I had it all written down.” In other cases, Raad relied on the Internet for guidance. “My little fella had a leech bite,” remembers the owner of the Corner Store. “‘Leech? What’s a leech?’ Raad looked it up on the computer: he didn’t have an idea.” Ditto when Lewer brought in her youngest son with an ear problem. Raad Googled “ears” and prescribed a medication.
At first, his ignorance was put down to what Dr Haggett later called “the usual problems of adapting to the new medical system, with different drug names, procedures and protocols”.
“’Give him a go,’ we were told,” says Lewer. But the practice manager was getting worried.
It began with little things. Referral letters made on yellow stickers. His habit of discussing someone’s symptoms in the presence of other patients. (“He’d walk up to the counter and in front of everyone waiting say: ‘Lyn, Mr X needs a prostate check.’”) His inability to concentrate. (“He brought in these jelly beans. One diabetic was offered a jelly bean four times in one consultation, despite telling him: ‘I’m sorry, I’m a diabetic.’”) His offer to sell a patient with chronic asthma drugs that weren’t available in Australia but which he promised he could get from South Africa. Another patient observed how Raad gulped a handful of pills to start the day. More perturbing, he was prescribing the wrong drugs.
“If you’re a whistleblower in this country, you’re condemned,” says Lewer. But her concerns had become so grave that on Saturday April 28, three days after Raad had injected Max, she felt obliged to fax them to Christina Wolfe, River Medical’s operations manager in Tasmania, stressing: “These issues must be addressed as a priority.”
On Tuesday, Wolfe confirmed that she had forwarded Lewer’s fax to Haggett’s office.
Two days later, on May 3, Raad pulled up outside Lewer’s house for dinner. As he got out of his car, he wasn’t skipping. And Lewer still had heard nothing from Tim Haggett.
A continent away in Perth, Lewer’s concerns were the least of Dr Haggett’s worries. Embarrassed by what Tasmania’s Medical Council had uncovered about his latest recruit, River Medical’s director was pressing Swansea’s new doctor to provide an explanation as to why he had lied when applying for registration.
First, there was the vexing issue of Raad’s previous employment in Tasmania. He had failed to mention this on either his CV or application, but a quick check had revealed that in September 1996 Raad arrived in Tasmania on a year’s contract as a medical research officer at the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe, in the north of the island. He had lasted there less than a fortnight, as I discovered in a letter from Bob Walsh to the Department of Immigration. “Regrettably, I advise that Dr Maurice Raad did a ‘midnight flit’ from Mersey Community Hospital sometime on Tuesday Sept 24, 1996. Dr Raad absconded his duty from MCH with outstanding accounts…”
I spoke to Walsh, who recalled that Raad had brought with him a woman who complained about rats in their room. “He took off in the middle of the night. We were very worried about him.”
“He was a bit whacko.”
But something else Haggett had unearthed: Raad had effectively used Tasmania as an entry point, and weeks after leaving the island in 1996 he’d popped up in, of all places, Haggett’s own home state of Western Australia, where the AMA had engaged him as a rural locum. It cannot have consoled Haggett to learn that this period, in his own understated words, “had not been particularly successful and was terminated earlier than had been planned”. Raad soon gravitated to the RAAF hospital in Darwin where he claimed to have “managed all medical emergencies”, but after lasting in his new position a period of days he again disappeared, leaving behind more outstanding accounts. By the end of 1997, he was back in South Africa.
Still, I wondered why Raad should have departed Tasmania so quickly. Was it really because of rats in his room? Bob Walsh maintained that the nurses’ quarters where he’d housed Raad were “perfectly acceptable”. The story about rats was nonsense.
A much likelier reason existed for Raad’s “midnight flit”, and this, I suspect, is what was preoccupying River Medical far more than his previous failed periods of employment in Australia.
I have before me the findings of the South African Medical and Dental Council for three different inquiries held into Dr Raad between 1982 and 1990. They weren’t hard to get hold of: a single telephone call. Had River Medical or their South African agency made the same call before recruiting Raad everyone might have been spared a lot of trouble, and River Medical much embarrassment.
In 1982, Maurice Saadien-Raad, as he then styled himself, was disciplined on various counts of improper conduct. He had “purported to have performed an adeno-tonsillectomy on Nicolette Murtagh whereas the patient was subsequently found still to have tonsils.” He had attempted to perform a tonsillectomy on Nadene Vesta Kruger having “negligently failed to observe that her tonsils had already been removed”. He had succeeded in performing a tonsillectomy on Brent Murtagh “and in doing so removed both posterior pillars and part of his pharynx”. He had also examined a patient complaining of severe menstrual flow “without detecting a large cystic mass the size of a 16-weeks pregnancy in her abdomen”.
Furthermore, Saadien-Raad claimed to have issued drugs to Mrs T. Bywater and Mr J.G. Bywater “whereas they were issued to other persons who identities are unknown”. Among the missing drugs were Ritalin, Megadox and Buscopan, all popular with abusers for their stimulant effects. Plus Wellconal, a powerfully addictive heroin substitute known as Pinks, as I discovered when I looked it up on Google. (I also learned that Wellconal was one of two hard drugs, along with Mandrax, that were widespread in South Africa in the late-apartheid era).
Suspended for three months, he dropped Saadien from his surname and resumed practice under the title of Dr Raad.
Two years later, in 1984, Dr Raad was suspended on four counts of improper conduct and in 1990 his name was again removed from the register after he was found guilty on six counts of disgraceful conduct.
How in all conscience, then, knowing what they did, could River Medical have allowed such a man to continue working in a solo practice in a rural community? In the interests of the safety and well-being of Raad’s patients in Swansea, the question is worth repeating. There is none of the wisdom of hindsight involved here. The case of Dr Raad is not a story about people being wise after the event, but before and during it. I can’t say I yet have an answer.
Leaving aside the discovery of Raad’s “midnight flit” in 1996 and his subsequent antics in Western Australia (which would form the subject of an investigation by Federal police), one might have trusted River Medical to freeze instantly Raad’s employment upon learning, as early as April 12, the simple fact that he had not only lied in his application but had been debarred (twice) from the register of South Africa’s medical practitioners. At least until they had made it their topmost priority to find out more. And yet Raad was given the benefit of every doubt.
Questioned further, Raad maintained that “there was no deliberate attempt to misguide”, but there was a simple explanation. Bluntly put, he had been a victim of an apartheid “witch-hunt” because of his efforts to bring about democracy among underprivileged Africans and coloured people in Crossroads and Mitchell’s Plain”. It was for his political beliefs, Raad claimed, that “over an extended period from 1980-90 the Security Branch of the South African police waged a psychological war against me to destroy me professionally, financially and personally.” For ten years, he had suffered “gross violation of human rights”.
Plainly River Medical were willing to go along with this as well as Raad’s “plausible” explanation as to why he had left Tasmania in 1996 (for “personal reasons”). Moved by the spirit of forgiveness that was to touch the Medical Council of Tasmania, Haggett was comfortable for Raad to stay put; indeed, according to Raad, “I was… encouraged to stay”. But Haggett reminded Raad that he had only until the first week of May to persuade the MCT of his innocence before the vital meeting that would or not ratify his registration. That’s why Raad had needed a telephone.
On April 30, after some to-ing and fro-ing, River Medical emailed Dr Raad the final draft of the document that Raad was to submit to the MCT in order to clarify, as he put it, “the misunderstandings regarding my application”.
Over five rambling and at times incoherent pages, Raad sought to demonstrate “how through my empathy towards underprivileged people I have being [sic] the victim of unjust treatment by members of the ‘Broederbond’ (a brotherhood of Akfikaans elite) who hold all important position [sic] within South Africa including the Medical Council, Universities, Security Council and Government.”
Raad had lived in constant danger: “My name appeared on a hit list as a person to be removed from the face of the earth by the Security police. The bolts on the undercarriage of my car were removed; wires were neatly en-coiled around the lever to prevent me from de-accelerating [sic] one’s car resulting in crashing into the wall. Shots were fired at me and to protect myself I wore a bullet proof-vest.”
Four different cars followed Raad day and night; his phones were tapped; his Afrikaans wife, who did not share his political beliefs, abandoned him, taking their child. “Brigadier Johan Coetzee, Head of Security Forces, Western Cape raided my home and stated ‘that he would destroy me professionally, financially and personally and when I was finished I would take my own life or find myself in position [sic] that I would not be able to afford a black disposable rubbish bag to sleep under, you kaffir lover’.”
As a result of this extraordinary vendetta, Raad became a member of the banned ANC and spent a period of exile in Zambia. “I do not expect to be rewarded for my efforts no matter how small they were to bring about democracy,” he wrote to the MCT. “My intention now at the age of 53 is to practice my profession in Swansea at the highest standard and to serve the community.”
River Medical’s director had greeted the contents of this letter with relief rather than astonishment. On May 3, that is to say two days after his office received Lewer’s “priority” fax, Haggett wrote to the MCT offering further support for Raad: “It does seem that there are specific mitigating circumstances and that this is an unusual case.” Although admitting that it was early days, Haggett’s assessment of his recruit was so far “generally positive”. He reassured the MCT that Raad “seems to have a caring approach with patients with a good bedside manner. Anecdotal feedback from patients, relayed via practice staff has been good. He appears to be working well with the staff of the May Shaw nursing home.”
What is unsettling about his statement is that it ignores not only Lewer’s deep concerns regarding behaviour that she considered “not appropriate” in matters of prescriptions, confidentiality and INR, but also a telephone call that Haggett had personally received the day before (May 2) from Swansea’s pharmacist, Christine White, expressing her fears (“I told him Raad wasn’t suitable for a rural area and that he was making all these mistakes.”).
Nonetheless, if the Council at their meeting confirmed Raad’s registration Haggett undertook “to keep the situation under close scrutiny”. And, crucially, he promised that River Medical’s own supervisor would be spending “regular periods” with Dr Raad to assess his performance.
The man who came to dinner with Lyn Lewer and her family on May 3 had shed his bedside manner. As he sat down to a meal of roast lamb and pavlova, he said menacingly: “Oh, I got a call from Tim.”
He mentioned that Haggett had telephoned to discuss the contents of Lewer’s fax. “He said that Haggett had told him to take us in hand, to lead and not be led. ‘You’re the boss, don’t let them rule you.’ Raad made it abundantly clear that my loyalty was being questioned. He stated that he did not want me to report to River Medical again, we were to keep problems in-house. ‘We’re a team. If you’re not on our team…’ I felt compromised.”
Raad then made a comment that caused her to recoil. “You really love your children, don’t you?” To Lewer the remark was a veiled threat, and when in the next breath he suggested himself as a prospective baby-sitter – it was how he’d put himself through university – she was appalled. The Lewers’ lavatory was in an area next to the children’s bedrooms. “I told my husband, ‘If he goes through there, watch him.’ I wouldn’t have left him alone with my children, ever.”
Her guest had altered from the jovial, roly-poly non-drinker of a week ago. When Lewer’s husband offered him a beer he drank it; then another. Offered a third, Lewer interceded: “He’s on call.” Raad reminded her that he was used to having servants, and with an interesting body gesture for a man who didn’t drink, he lifted his glass. “I just go: ‘Cynthia!’”
More relaxed now, he confessed how much he desired an Australian lifestyle. He was keen to improve the garden at the doctor’s residence. He had started golf lessons. He wanted a satellite dish (could she make enquiries?). He would like to rent a house on the beach (Lewer suggested ours. “He told me he was going to your house for Christmas day!”) He admitted that he was desperate to become an Australian citizen and was looking for sponsors (would the Lewers sponsor him?). Also a bride. He had to marry someone. Lynn’s 74-year old mother was present at the table. “I can work and chop and clean!”
At the end of the meal, Raad volunteered to wash up. Over the dirty dishes, he told Lewer that in South Africa when someone comes to your home you are cementing a friendship. “So I can count on you as a friend?”
The following day Raad telephoned the Medical Council of Tasmania to learn that his interim registration had been approved and that he was licensed to practice medicine for a further year. Explaining its decision six months later, the MCT’s President, Dr Mike Hodgson told the 7.30 Report: “I think anybody who is found guilty of something, they pay their price… I don’t believe you should penalise them for something that occurs ten to twenty years ago.”
But in Swansea the surgery was spinning out of control.
Raad’s habit of asking people what he should prescribe them was proving enormously popular with patients not normally seen at the surgery. “Drug addicts were frequent visitors during Raad’s three weeks,” Lewer says. “He’d give whatever they wanted.”
His failure to adhere to basic medical rules was also ringing alarm bells. On two occasions, at 4 a.m. and at 2 a.m., he did not answer his call. His excuse: “Oh, it must have been out of range.” Jeanette Voss discovered that on one of these emergency call-outs he’d been partying at the Shy Albatross. “He said he was a teetotaller, but he drank buckets of red wine.”
Then there was Raad’s restless eye. After deciding that he ought to marry an Australian, he no longer looked forward to his “lady friend” joining him from Cape Town. “When she rang from South Africa he was quite agitated,” Lewer remembers. “I went to fetch him. ‘What did she say? What did she say?’ Not a happy little Vegemite at all.” At the same time, his unprofessional manner was causing unease within the surgery. “He collected the names of unmarried, available women – all patients – to a certain age and their phone numbers, and started inviting them for dinner.”
Far more troubling was Raad’s work. The erstwhile leader of a cardiac-arrest unit was having trouble performing the most routine operation.
One early Sunday evening Jo Brown, the senior nurse, watched Raad deal with a woman who had suffered a cardiac. “He was shaking. He couldn’t cannulate. I took one look at her and at the monitor and I put the needle in the vein.”
Brown also had to intervene when a man came in with a sebaceous cyst on his head. “Raad didn’t ask if he was on Warfarin. He decided he was going to cut it out. He cut him all right, he couldn’t stop him bleeding. I’m not joking, Raad was shaking. ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘For God’s sake, give me that,’ and I took the artery forceps and somehow I got the blood vessel, and the man ended up with four pairs of forceps sticking out of his head. Raad was paranoid that he was going to be blown. ‘You’re not going to report me?’
He was a poor diagnostician. One of his most irresponsible examinations involved Amanda Brooks, 26-weeks pregnant, who was given the wrong diuretic for her swollen ankles, which he had failed to diagnose on two occasions as pre-eclampsia. When Christine White, the Swansea pharmacist, read his prescription she warned Brooks that the medication would remove the amniotic fluid from around her baby, and “could also cause the baby to die”.
White’s vigilance stopped several patients from ingesting Raad’s medicine. Dot Meredith was another who presented a prescription that bewildered the pharmacist. “She asked if I had a scratch on my arm? I said, ‘No, I didn’t, I wanted an internal cream,’ and she said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s done it again!’”
Meredith’s 84-year old husband Edwin is the only instance I can find of Raad appearing to improve someone’s health. Edwin had gone in to see Raad for a medical for his driving licence. “This fella, he said nothing, he didn’t test me blood pressure, he didn’t look to see whether I had to wear glasses or not.” Edwin left with a clean bill of health and 20/20 vision.
The gravest case was a man with back trouble to whom Raad administered a spinal injection. “He was paralysed for three days,” says Voss grimly. “I dealt with him for the next twelve months, trying to stop him committing suicide.”
“Someone could have died,” Brown told me. “Why they didn’t, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want him dealing with an animal.”
By the end of his second week in Swansea, Dr Raad had become a person to avoid.
When a doctor of questionable abilities is sent to a single-handed practice in the middle of nowhere the whole business of clinical supervision is charged with unusual significance. A Tasmanian GP explained to me the normal course of action: “If I was a GP’s supervisor and I had a practice manager telephoning me, I would be down there that day, even if it was 9 p.m.”
To supervise Raad, River Medical employed Dr George Cerchez, an important and busy figure in Tasmanian medical circles, with his own practice near Launceston, and wearing a variety of hats, including that of state GP Liaison Officer. However real were eventually to become his misgivings, Cerchez was slow to grasp the seriousness of Raad’s case. As early as May 1, Cerchez had received Lewer’s “priority” fax from River Medical’s Christine White (who had replied to Lewer on that same day: “I hope he will follow soon with some ‘training’ ASAP.”). On May 2, Voss had also expressed her fears to Cerchez. “I called Cerchez twice in regards to the fact that Raad wasn’t safe. He said: ‘Give him time.’”
Haggett had promised “regular periods” of supervision, but according to Lewer’s records: “Raad had only one day of supervision at the surgery.”
Not until May 7, at the start of Raad’s third week, did Cerchez arrive in Swansea to spend the day with him. In a report that took Cerchez another three weeks to write up and deliver, he ticked off as “poor” Raad’s factual knowledge, clinical judgment, organisational skills, promptness, accuracy, attention to detail, and his communication with patients and family. And yet amazingly, despite what River Medical’s own supervisor admits was “a worrying scenario”, Raad remained at work, treating patients.
A week later Voss had had enough. She again telephoned Cerchez. If he didn’t get rid of Raad, she would hold him personally responsible. “I said to Cerchez: ‘He’s not safe here. We can’t supervise him, that’s not our role.’ He said: ‘You will have no GP.’ ‘No GP is better than him.’” By now Cerchez had also received a fax from Swansea’s pharmacist that itemised Raad’s prescriptions. It looked unlikely that River Medical could prevaricate much longer.
On Friday, May 18, Raad drove to Hobart to meet Dr Cerchez for what he understood to be a professional assessment. In fact, he was going to be sacked.
As Raad sped along the east coast towards his 4 p.m. appointment, Cerchez sat down to compose the first of three urgent letters to the MCT’s Registrar. He catalogued Raad’s “extremely deficient” knowledge about common general practice diagnoses; his “quite deficient” accident and emergency skills; his lack of respect for patients’ confidentiality or privacy etc., etc.. “It is my recommendation that his conditional registration be withdrawn from Swansea.”
At 6 p.m., news spread through the surgery that River Medical had terminated Raad’s contract.
In Swansea, the police were so concerned about what Raad might do that they advised Lewer to lock her house and issued her with a police mobile. The pharmacist left town that night, and at the nursing home windows and doors were battened down.
At last the green Falcon reappeared outside the surgery. Raad sat in his car for almost two hours. Later, he telephoned Lewer and Brown. He was sobbing. Did they know what had happened? Did they know why?
On Sunday, River Medical’s CEO, Suzi Taylor, flew in from Perth and asked Voss to accompany her to 6 Rectory Street. “He was sitting quietly in a chair,” remembers Voss. “He wasn’t aggressive. He was depressed, resigned to his fate.” Taylor blazed into him. Raad was ordered to hand over his car and house keys and to quit Swansea the following day. Before leaving, he was to settle all outstanding debts, including $800 at the Corner Store and $200 to Satellite Tasmania. And to put on hold his purchase of a $167,000 house in Cambria Drive.
On Monday, Raad was picked up by Brian Logan who drove him to the Welcome Inn in Hobart. Voss says: “I told Brian all he needed to do was talk about the scenery.”
The new life that Raad had sought in Tasmania had lasted barely a month, but his memory would linger. His green Falcon had to be stripped out and steam-cleaned by a garage that had never treated a vehicle in such condition: “It just stank of cigar.” In the Rectory Street house, ashes from his Willem II cigars had also burned a dark halo into the carpet around his chair. And Pethedine was missing from his trauma bag, adding to the suspicion that Raad might have been an addict.
Asked on the 7.30 Report if Dr Raad would ever practice in Australia again, Dr Mike Hodgson told Judy Tierney “I think it is highly, highly, highly unlikely.”
River Medical declined to be interviewed.
Once he left Tasmania, Raad rounded on River Medical in the paranoid and indignant language that he had used to attack the Broederbond. “The treatment I received was shocking,” he emailed Tierney. “I gave my heart and soul to Swansea.” He perceived himself as “a professional person with the gift to heal”. By contrast, River Medical were “moneymaking machines who have only the Dollars bounding in the brains.” Of the total income generated by him while in Tasmania ($18,128. 40), Raad had received only $4,778.99. “I strongly believe these people are parasites of the Australian Democratic way of life.” They formed “a purported practice of assisting to the community when in fact they are only there to line their pockets and at the same time capitalise on the immigration laws.”
But he still had a place in his heart for Swansea. On June 8, the surgery received one of his idiosyncratic emails: “How are you all missisg [sic] you all very much. God bless you all.” The message indicated that he was in South Africa.
Something in me also wanted to give Maurice Raad the benefit of the doubt. Was he once, as he claimed, the victim of a “gross violation of human rights”? But the South African Medical and Dental Council denied this emphatically. “The then SAMDC never held enquiries about any person’s political beliefs, that is an absolute fallacy.” I questioned a journalist who had covered the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and written a book about this period, but the name Raad rang no bell with her: the few white doctors who made depositions had been traumatised by military service in Angola. “No doctor testified as a victim, so it sounds fishy to me.” And everyone I spoke to held that it was extremely unlikely that he was a victim of the Broederbond. It was a recent phenomenon that some white South Africans, especially those who had left South Africa and were embarrassed to be thought of as racists and who couldn’t cope with a black government, claimed to have been victimized by the Apartheid regime. Plus, if he really was a victim, why were Dr Raad’s various contact addresses in Cape Town, as one person observed, “the most upmarket areas in the whole country”?
I telephoned all three of his addresses, but the numbers no longer worked. I checked out his referees and discovered that Raad had forged the date on one of his letters of reference, and that another referee was nearly struck off for selling false diagnoses of psychological stress, inability to work etc., to teachers and policemen, thus costing the state millions of rands and earning himself plenty – “So he is not highly regarded within the medical profession here,” said my informant. As for the learned articles cited in his CV, Raad had himself struck off the names of his four co-authors in order to take sole credit.
I began to doubt whether Maurice Saadien-Raad had ever fulfilled the requirements necessary to practice, but then I managed to trace two doctors who had been students with him at Witwatersrand. Yes, he had qualified. Beyond that they didn’t know what had happened to him. They recollected a man of mixed Afrikaans and Lebanese parentage who loved soccer and fast red cars and women.
Raad’s last contact address was a florist’s in Constantia belonging to his “lady friend”. From Tasmania, I telephoned a friend who lived in Cape Town and asked her if she would, as a favour, speak face to face with the owner, Josée. On her way to the flower shop my friend bumped into a garrulous antique dealer who unleashed herself at the name of Maurice Raad. “You’re not a friend of that EVIL creature are you? He nearly ruined Josée’s life. He’s a liar, a womaniser, a cheat – he used her credit card. I’ve known him for years, an unsavoury creep. I saw him at Christmas. He has a new girlfriend, another one to sponge on…” etc., etc.. Already Josée was looking to be part of Raad’s chequered history.
Josée was a glamorous, fragile woman in her late 50s with thick dark hair, huge eyes, gold earrings and immaculate beige-lacquered fingernails. Her experience with Raad, whom she had known for 15 years, had made her wary, but over an orange juice in the Zanzibar restaurant nearby she was ready to admit that he was dangerous and manipulative and had cost her a lot of money. “I nearly married him, sold my business and went to Tasmania with him, but something stopped me. I’m not stupid, but he deceived me and it has taken some time and effort to get over him.”
Little by little, she released more details. Raad had been wealthy when she met him, with a large house in Constantia. He was a doctor, he impressed her. “You believe everything a doctor says.” He had expensive cars: a Lamborghini, a Mercedez-Benz, a Ferrari. He once drove in his Ferrari to see her at the flower shop. “It attracted so much attention that when he saw it surrounded by admirers he walked all the way home and telephoned his dealer to take it away and swap it for something less ostentatious.”
She had heard rumours about him from the start. That he had had seven wives and three children whom previous wives wouldn’t allow him to see. That he had been removed from the medical register for dealing in drugs. “A doctor came to me and warned me he was not to be trusted.” But when she queried strange aspects of his life Raad soothed her with reasonable explanations. And… he amused her. He wined and dined and romanced her, he told her entertaining stories, and eventually moved into her house. They lived together for two years. He could only fall asleep while holding her hand. He would wake up in the morning full of joy and delight, jump out of bed and pirouette about the room, this huge man, to make her laugh.
Josée had thrown him out when Raad mysteriously returned from Tasmania – no explanation why – and taken up with another girlfriend. Since then he had plagued her for months to allow him back, but she had woken to the “bad character” he was. “He has a split personality. He’s charming most of the time. Look at his face!” and she pulled out a photograph. “What do you see? Nice. Mr Nice Guy. But sometimes he changed, he could be frightening.”
Then Josée said: “What good will all this do? What do you want of me, actually? Why does your friend want to write about him?”
I’d pursued Dr Raad as far as I wished to go. Worryingly, no one knew where he was, or even if he was still in South Africa. But Josée was probably right: it would do no good to speak to him, he had clearly lost his way. He must have demonstrated, at some stage in his career, a sufficient knowledge of his trade, but the picture that emerged from his month in Tasmania was of a sub-literate fantasist who was struggling to function at the most basic level.
Though a lot of what I’d discovered dismayed me, I was heartened to learn that both the Tasmanian Medical Council and River Medical had rigorously tightened up their screening methods of overseas doctors following another unhappy episode that took place round about the same time.
Staying with Raad – incredible to relate – at the same hotel in Hobart was Donald Milton Wells, recruited by River Medical from Texas and destined for King Island. This time the MCT’s Registrar, Annette McLean-Aherne, was present at the interview. She told Wells: “These documents” – from the Texas State Medical Board – “are fraudulent.” She had looked on-line and found that his license number belonged to a doctor born in 1965, whereas Wells was born in 1943. The font used on his medical degree was the same as on his intern document, right down to the same typographic flaws, and he had over-signed the signature on his passport. “He was a fraud from go to whoa!” As was Dr Mohammed Yah Ya Khan, employed by River Medical in April 2000 to practice in St Helen’s on Tasmania’s east coast. Khan, a bogus doctor from Pakistan, had lasted in his position exactly four hours.
Common to all three men was a misapprehension. “They come to Tassie with the idea that we still communicate with smoke-signals,” said the Registrar. Perhaps like Wells and Khan, Raad had anticipated a primitive wilderness on the rim of the world where his imperfect medical history could pass unnoticed. “What he didn’t realise,” said the pharmacist in Swansea, “is that in a place like Swansea you have to be a first-class practitioner, because you have to do everything. There’s no back-up. You can’t hide.”
And River Medical’s reaction to all this? I waited until last before contacting Dr Haggett. I suppose I was hoping to hear from him an explanation of what had gone wrong, but it didn’t happen. The medical freemasonry is just as protective as the Catholic church. Declining to be interviewed, Dr Haggett emailed me: “we have a policy of not making any public statement on these matters which we feel are best dealt with by the Medical Council of Tasmania”. Raad’s former supervisor also refused to discuss his case in detail, although Dr Cerchez did have this to say: “I think this is a matter best left alone. There are now incredibly different safeguards in place. There is no way this could happen again.”
And so I let the whole issue of Maurice Raad go.
Then in December 2003 while I was in England I received an email from [email protected]. He had been working “as a associate specialists in psychiatry”[sic] in a private hospital in the Darlington area in the north-east, but he wanted a job in London. “The drawback is one has to find your own accomodation and I am told it is very expensive could you help me in any way or have any suggestions. England is a very lonely place when you do not know anyone.” He was working in the meantime in Leamington Spa, the work “going better than I expected”. He sent his regards to my wife – “I apologise for not rwemembering her name” – and provided his mobile number. “Hope to hear from you soon. Maurice.”
I deliberated about what to do. Should I report him? Confront him? I was on the point of ringing his mobile when the images of a paralysed man and a pregnant mother who might have lost her baby arrested me. Instead of dialling his number, I telephoned every hospital in the Leamington Spa area, but there was no one listed under Raad or Saadien-Raad. Alarmed now, I telephoned the General Medical Council in London. The woman I spoke to said that she had no record of any doctor with either of those names registered to practice medicine in England.
Dr Maurice Saadien-Raad was still out there, at large, doing what he did best. He might not be able to locate a set of tonsils in a throat, but this was a man who knew how to slip through a net.