38 more patient deaths probed QUEENSLAND'S new health watchdog is investigating the deaths of 38 patients believed to have died from negligence or catastrophic failures in the medical system. Medical staff are facing criminal prosecutions over two of the deaths. With only seven of the 38 investigations finalised, more prosecutions are likely. Informed sources said the remaining 31 cases could take a year to complete while investigators quiz scores of doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, wardsmen and grieving family members. The deaths were among 5067 complaints fielded by the independent Health Quality and Complaints Commission in its first year. More than 4400 complaints were "resolved", some over the phone. The Courier-Mail learned the watchdog body received disturbing claims of gross negligence, system error and communications breakdowns resulting in deaths in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Logan, Townsville, Cairns, Redcliffe, Normanton, Cherbourg and other Aboriginal communities. Some of the details filtered out last week during Queensland parliamentary select committee hearings into the commission's first year. One serious case involved a 43-year-old Woodridge woman - previously reported in The Courier-Mail - who died on a stretcher at Logan Hospital because no beds were available. Other deaths were blamed on drugs mix-ups. The parents of a psychiatric patient who committed suicide complained their daughter was sent home without adequate treatment. Nine complaints were referred to the State Coroner and two to the Child Guardian. Not all complaints were about failures in hospitals, with 1600 mostly minor grievances with private medical practitioners and dentists. The Health Quality and Complaints Commission was set up in 2006 after a health systems review by private consultant Peter Forster. It followed health inquiries by Anthony Morris, QC, and Geoff Davies, QC, who revealed major flaws in the system highlighted by the Bundaberg Hospital tragedy. The new watchdog's CEO, Cheryl Herbert, said the commission had made a significant impact in its first year. "We are immensely proud of our achievements," she said. Mrs Herbert said complaints could be broadly placed in two categories: service and quality. She said the commission had 77 staff, of which 58 were permanent. Mrs Herbert called for better co-operation between the Coroner, the Crime and Misconduct Commission and police in investigating complaints. She said a computer systems upgrade in November would lead to better management of complaints.