Melissa Davey announced the winner of the 2017-2018 RANZCOG Media Award of Excellence

30 October 2018

Beginning with a tip-off about a doctor facing the NSW civil and administrative tribunal, Melissa Davey put forth a request for information to the tribunal. The response she got back was a package of ‘sensitive’ documents that revealed gynaecologist Emil Shawky Gayed was accused of performing numerous operations without consent at the Manning Rural Referral Hospital in Taree. The operations ranged from unnecessary hysterectomies to failing to detect a pregnancy before performing a surgery, which caused the patient to require an abortion.  
As the scale of the scandal began to emerge, Davey travelled to Taree with photographer Carly Earl to gather the stories of women treated by Gayed. The feature, published on 25 June, not only shone light into the stories of Gayed’s patients, but on other equally severe stories shared by former colleagues and health administrators. Within 12 hours of the feature story being published by Guardian Australia, the NSW Department of Health announced a major independent inquiry into Gayed’s work at four public hospitals in the state. The inquiry further revealed that staff had raised concerns about Gayed since the mid-1990s, when he worked at what is now Canberra hospital.

Davey’s exhaustive reporting outlined the allegations against Gayed in meticulous detail that made formal investigations by public health authorities inevitable. Davey contacted RANZCOG to enquire about the College records regarding his training and accreditation. After finding an 18-year-old subpoena, the College put Davey in touch with the Chair of its Continuing Professional Development Committee, Dr John Tait. In one of Davey’s articles, published on 27 June, Tait shared the fact that the College had no further information other than the 18-year-old subpoena. He publicly urged doctors to report colleagues who witnessed poor practice; stating that a change of culture within the profession was necessary to guarantee patient safety.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for clinicians to speak up ... There are mandatory reporting responsibilities under national law to try and minimise the potential danger to the patients we care for,” he said.

From there on, Davey wrote numerous stories and analysis pieces about the case, analysing the systemic failures that allowed Gayed to continue harming patients for decades. The story has gained the attention of politicians and publications on both a national and international level.

“This is not a story about one doctor, but about the systems that failed to protect women over and over again. And it's about reforming these systems so this never happens again”, says Melissa.

"Melissa has responded to deeply-held concerns within the community," said RANZCOG President Professor Steve Robson, "It is a pleasure to recognise her for this work and for standing up for women and their families."

Read the work that awarded her the RANZCOG Media Award of Excellence here.



Dr Pieter Mourik (AM)

Being recognised in the Australia Day honours was a highlight for this rural medicine advocate.



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