By Confidente Reporter
LOCAL ophthalmologists have expressed concern over alleged unethical practices by three South African eye doctors who jet in and out of the country to perform surgeries at Swakopmund’s Medcare Eye Clinic saying the trio reportedly dump their patients soon after operations.
The three doctors are reportedly rarely available for the aftercare of their patients to ensure that operations went as planned and deal with complications that might arise. In most extreme cases, it is alleged that the South African specialists instruct optometrists (who are primarily responsible for performing eye exams as well as vision tests) and general practitioners to do the after care of patients, a situation that is not allowed in the country.
“Any surgical discipline requires that surgery is the first step of the procedure but a lot of that involves aftercare as well, so people need to be followed up and assessed. In case of complications they need to be dealt with properly. In cases where people show up, operate one day and do surgery and disappear the next, some complications develop within first five days of the surgery and if you are not there to take care of it then the patient is in trouble. So for optometrists, legally speaking in this country they are not allowed to do aftercare or treatment of eyes.
“…If something happens and you are not there, that is a problem. In principle we would not operate a week before we go on holiday or on leave because of the after care, unless you can make sure that someone is available the whole time in case of complications…things can happen, bleeding and infections which if it happens can be a disaster and people can lose their eyesight completely. If detected early, it can be treated,” said a local eye surgeon.
Local eye doctors bemoaned that often they correct their foreign counterpart’s substandard work, although the latter cash in on the public healthcare funding.
One such incident involved a 90-year-old woman who lost eyesight in her right eye last month when one of the three foreign doctors instructed a general practitioner to anaesthetise the eye before surgery. The general practitioner wrongly injected the elderly women in the eye globe, causing an entry and exit wound on the eye.
She was transferred to Windhoek where local doctors had to correct the damage and found blood at the back part of her eye caused by internal bleeding.
Meanwhile, the local eye doctors further said that the matter was reported to the Namibia Health Professionals Council (NHPC) for intervention but it appears the complaints have fallen on death ears.
“The health professionals council is responsible for registering people who want to come work here, essentially a South African qualification is recognised by the council but there is no regulation as to who comes in basically anyone at the moment the way it works it seems anybody who feels like it can register here, fly up for a weekend and see bunch of patients and disappear again and get paid for it.
“Competency needs to be assessed, they need to be vetted and then apply. This thing of flying in for few days, seeing patients and operating on them and disappearing is completely unethical. This has been reported to the health professional’s council and apparently they had a meeting and didn’t seem to have a problem with it. “
However, NHPC Registrar, Cornelius Vataleni Weyulu said that his institution investigated the complaints adding there is a permanent eye specialist who deals with the aftercare of patients.
“The matter was reported to Council during 2016 and a thorough investigation was conducted. The investigation revealed that the foreign-based eye specialists have a practice in Swakopmund and they come to Namibia to consult and offer services to their patients as often as required. All practitioners are registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia (the Council) and on that basis entitled to practice as eye specialists in Namibia. The investigation further revealed that there is a resident eye specialist at the practice who looks after patients during the absence of other practitioners.”
As for the elderly woman’s incident, Weyulu said that the matter was not reported; adding that those with information should approach him. “Our office is not aware of such a case as it was not reported to our office. We however call on any person with information to approach our office in order to investigate the matter.”
Efforts to get comment from Medcare Eye Clinic did not yield a positive response after a Dr Schickerling declined to entertain Confidente’s questions saying, “It is best we speak in person to address this matter.”
Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Andreas Mwoombola Tuesday told Confidente that the ministry will investigate the matter
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