Longer wait for Rao
TOCUMWAL’S Dr Balaji Rao will have to wait almost two more weeks to hear the NSW Coroner’s findings on the inquest into the deaths of two of his patients.
NSW Coroner Mary Jerram was expected to give her decision on Friday, but instead deferred until July 14.
This is the latest in a lengthy legal process that began in 2007.
Dr Rao, 73, is being investigated over the 2005 and 2007 deaths of Tocumwal Hospital patients Ralph Grenfell and Bob Cooling.
The inquest has previously heard that Dr Rao had prescribed both Mr Grenfell and Mr Cooling neuromuscular blocking agents without appropriate ventilator support, and that the drugs were not known for their use in palliative care.
The Department of Public Prosecutions has decided that there are no grounds for charges over the deaths, and Ms Jerram said the inquest will resume.
She also recently rejected a submission by Dr Rao’s solicitors to recuse herself and her senior Counsel Assisting on the grounds of apparent bias.
In her response to Dr Rao’s solici- tors, Taylor & Whitty, Ms Jerram said the evidence in the request to remove her senior Counsel Assisting was ‘‘frankly absurd’’.
She did, however, rule that Dr Rao would not be compelled to give evidence and acknowledged the Grenfell and Cooling families’ wishes that the inquest cease.
She also acknowledged the pressure the lengthy process had placed on Dr Rao.
‘‘I accept too that he (Dr Rao) has undergone the strain of lengthy proceedings in which he may have incurred indirectly at least, some criticism,’’ she said.
‘‘He is an elderly man, and it was never the intention of this court to harass or hound him.’’
The inquest will continue on July 14 at the Glebe Coroner’s Court.
Dr Rao has had the support of both the Grenfell and Cooling families and the Tocumwal community throughout the process.
Dr Rao, who was deregistered for at least a year in June 2010, said recently that he would await Ms Jerram’s decision before applying for a review of the deregistration of his medical licence.