‘Probe a farce’ says surgeon accused of cover-up

A DUTCH surgeon accused of concealing his past to secure jobs in Scotland claimed yesterday that the investigation he faced in Holland was a “farce”.
Foreign surgeon Robert Heintjes. Picture: NewslineForeign surgeon Robert Heintjes. Picture: Newsline
Foreign surgeon Robert Heintjes. Picture: Newsline

Dr Robert Heintjes allegedly made a series of blunders in the Netherlands between 2002 and 2007, then left the country agreeing never to work there as a surgeon again.

The vascular surgeon, who specialises in vein and artery operations, came to Scotland in 2007, and landed posts in Aberdeen and Ayr.

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Dr Heintjes is now facing a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing in Manchester, where he is accused of lying in the course of job applications and incorrectly operating on a patient in 2010.

He told the panel yesterday that the Dutch investigation was a “farce” and he came to Scotland because he “needed the money and there was a job available in Aberdeen”.

He said: “The investigation was highly unusual. It commented on my not greeting colleagues in the hallway. If the investigation is completely incorrect and it is done by somebody who wanted to improve his career, I would say I could leave that behind.”

Dr Heintjes admits that in an interview for a post at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in September 2007 he failed to declare any outstanding professional concerns. He subsequently got the job. He later applied for a consultant post at Ayr hospital in February 2008, which he took up in May the same year.

On a form completed in March 2008, he signed a statement indicating that no fitness to practise proceedings were being undertaken or considered against him.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said that on both occasions he knew he was the subject of an ongoing investigation in the Netherlands, but the medic denies his conduct was dishonest and misleading.

Sara Lewis, for the GMC, said: “Not disclosing that would objectively be considered dishonest, and further not disclosing that you had been made subject to an investigation by your regulatory body, and that you had agreed not to practise, would be viewed objectively as dishonest.”

Dr Heintjes has also admitted to a series of blunders that led to a man having the wrong vein stripped in an operation in 2010, which led to a complication for the patient.

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He said: “I’m truly sorry that procedure went wrong for whatever reason.”

Dr Heintjes has not worked as a doctor since 2010. He indicated to the panel that he is currently studying for an MBA in Aberdeen and intends to work in management in the oil industry in the future.

Dr Heintjes was accused of 14 severe medical blunders in Holland over a period of five years.

A member of the Dutch healthcare inspectorate broke privacy rules to warn the GMC after Dr Heintjes began working in Scotland. The doctor told the panel at the hearing that if the letter had not arrived, he would have been employed at Ayr Hospital for longer.

Dr Heintjes was suspended by the GMC in 2008 and again in 2010, but is currently free to practise within the UK subject to “undertakings”, which means he is closely monitored by his professional regulator.

The hearing continues.