Australia’s medical regulator has defended the time it has taken to investigate complaints against doctors at Bacchus Marsh hospital.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) faced media criticism last week that 17 practitioners were still being investigated two years after news broke of a cluster of baby deaths at Djerriwarrh Health Service that could have been avoided.

The agency handles complaints and has the power to suspend the registration of doctors.

A report by the agency released in March showed that AHPRA had notifications about at least three doctors at Bacchus Marsh and two of those doctors were still practicing with restrictions imposed.

None of the doctors now work at the hospital and have since surrendered their licences.

“So far, we have dealt with 101 matters concerning 40 practitioners and have finalised 58 matters, the largest single investigation we have ever undertaken,” a statement from the agency said.

“We have now completed a number of investigations into health practitioners who worked at Bacchus Marsh Hospital at that time.

“For families who have suffered terrible loss, our focus has been on ensuring each investigation is thorough and fair and that they are properly informed about the outcome.”

The agency has since commissioned an independent review of its management of complaints and says it has made improvements.

“Our processes for managing notifications about registered health practitioners have been subject to extensive scrutiny. This is welcomed because our work is important for the safety of the community,” it said in a statement.