Paediatric surgeon Peter Beale stripped of licence to operate

Despite Beale no longer being on HPCSA register, the council said there are five pending cases for children’s deaths

07 February 2022 - 16:52
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Dr Peter Beale is being prosecuted for the death of 10-year-old Zayyaan Sayed, who died in October 2019, as well as 21-month-old Alissa Strydom in 2016. Beale has since been stripped of his medical licence.
Dr Peter Beale is being prosecuted for the death of 10-year-old Zayyaan Sayed, who died in October 2019, as well as 21-month-old Alissa Strydom in 2016. Beale has since been stripped of his medical licence.
Image: Supplied

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) has confirmed that paediatric surgeon Prof Peter Beale, who is accused of being responsible for the deaths of at least two children he operated on, is legally no longer permitted to operate on any patients.

In a written response to Sunday Times Daily questions, the HPCSA said: “Dr Beale has been removed from the HPCSA registrar … Beale has been removed based on other previous complaints on which he was found guilty.”

The council would not share the report in which Beale was stripped of his practising licence, saying: “Reports on these cases are confidential, and cannot be made available to the public.”

This revelation comes after Beale’s case was heard in the high court in Johannesburg last week. It is here that Beale’s culpable homicide charge was escalated to murder after the death of his 10-year-old patient.

The victim, Zayyaan Sayed, died in October 2019 at Netcare’s Park Lane Clinic. Zayyaan died after Beale performed what was meant to be a routine laparoscopic operation for reflux. He is also accused of fraud relating to the results of a distal oesophageal biopsy, according to the indictment.

Beale had initially been arrested alongside anaesthetist Dr Abdulhay Munshi in October 2019. Munshi, however, was gunned down in Orange Grove in September 2020.

Witnesses said his vehicle was hit by another from behind. When he got out to investigate he was shot multiple times. The gunman fled and no one was arrested.

Sunday Times Daily reached out to Beale to ask for his comment regarding the developments in his court proceedings. 

In a written reply, he said: “I am not permitted to speak to the media, but you may presume that the legal matter to which you refer has had far-reaching effects on myself, but nothing like the effect on the family of my anaesthetist colleague Dr Abdulay Munshi who was assassinated September 2020.

“Initially journalists were recruited to conduct a trial by media, which was damaging. For a comprehensive review of the medical facts of this matter I would refer you to the current review on the Facebook page of SA Doctors United.”

It was on this page that medical professionals threw their weight behind Beale, with more than 83,000 of them signing a petition for the charges against Beale and Munshi to be dropped, saying doctors were now under threat and would perform their duties in fear.

At the time the two doctors were charged, the SA Medical Association (Sama) had also expressed its concern over the charge, advising that a specialised medical court be established in which trained medical practitioners would be called to scrutinise decisions made by doctors.

Sama had lambasted the HPCSA and said it was slow in handling matters such as these.

During his now solo court case last week, an additional charge of culpable homicide was added to Beale’s charges relating to the death of 21-month-old Alissa Strydom. She died in July 2016, also after what was supposed to be a routine medical surgery to treat her acid reflux. The toddler, went into cardiac arrest and died.

The indictment revealed how a number of things allegedly went wrong during and after her operation. She bled internally, but this was not recorded in her medical file. No request was made for an urgent haemoglobin level test nor was an intraoperative arterial blood gas test conducted.

The court papers further stated: "No efforts were made intra-operatively to exclude haemorrhagic shock. The anaesthesia was reversed and the deceased was extubated in theatre. An oral airway was placed and the deceased was breathing spontaneously, whereafter she was transferred to the recovery room. The registered nurse, Ms T Ramjee, noted that the deceased was clinically pale. 

“An arterial blood gas test was conducted in the recovery room at approximately 8.38pm, which demonstrated a hematocrit (proportion of red blood cells in blood) of 21%.

“The deceased suffered bradycardia and a cardiac arrest. After a prolonged resuscitation the deceased was declared dead at approximately 8.57pm on July 29 2016.”

Like the Sayeds, the Strydom family had lodged a complaint against Beale with the HPCSA after Alissa’s death in 2016 and then decided to pursue criminal charges.

The HPCSA confirmed to Sunday Times Daily that these were only two of numerous complaints that they had received against Beale over his years in practice.

“About 29 complaints were received of which 24 are closed. [The] outcomes range from [a] case where the practitioner was found not guilty of unprofessional conduct [to] cases where a penalty of either a caution or fine was imposed. [The] nature of case ranged from offences related to records [to] allegations of negligence,” the HPCSA told Sunday Times Daily.

Despite Beale no longer being on the HPCSA register, the council said: “There are three cases pending inquiry and two cases pending investigation.” 

While Beale’s case was postponed to January 2023, Sinen Mnguni, who was initially assisting the Sayed family to get their case prosecuted, revealed that he was assisting other families who were building cases against Beale. Six have come forward after their children died during or after operations conducted by Beale. 

“We can’t anticipate what is going to happen, but ultimately what we intend doing is ensuring that the police at least investigate their matter thoroughly. We can’t pre-empt what the outcomes of the investigations are going to be, but ultimately the hope is that they receive some attention.”

He stressed that they were not trying to unduly influence any outcome but wanted to simply establish whether there was any foul play in the children’s deaths.

Mnguni said the investigations were at a very delicate stage, with investigators looking at all the dockets and trying to determine whether there were any merits to the matters. 

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