Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eye surgery hopes dashed Patients suffer complications after Cuba

Eye surgery hopes dashed Patients suffer complications after Cuba
published: Saturday | May 27, 2006

Yahneake Sterling, Staff Reporter

LESS THAN a year after the 'Miracle Operation' programme, which allows
Jamaicans with serious eye problems to visit Cuba free of charge to
receive treatment from that nation's top ophthalmologists, several
patients are now suffering from serious complications.

According to Dr. Albert Lue, head of the ophthalmology department at
Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), several patients who have received eye
surgery in Cuba are experiencing poor visual activity.

"The main complication that is causing this problem is the cornea," Dr.
Lue said. "The front of the eye gets very cloudy and this is usually
because of poor surgical techniques."

He said that in a survey of 60 patients who recently returned to
Jamaica, three persons are now visually impaired, while 14 are suffering
serious corneal damage.

George Foster, a 70-year-old participant in the 'Miracle Operation',
told The Gleaner that, prior to the surgery to remove his cataract, he
was only able to see from his left eye.

"Since I come back, I can see from the right eye but I can't see from
the left," the retired mason said.


He said that, since his return in February, he has visited the KPH more
than six times and there has still been no improvement in his once 'good
left eye'. He claimed he was not aware of the risks that were involved
in the surgery at the time.

"I was (so) glad to get it dealt with that, even if they had told me of
the risks, I would have still gone," he, however, added.

When contacted, Eva Lewis Fuller, director of cooperation at the
Ministry of Health, acknowledged that she had been informed of the
concerns by local ophthalmologists and that the Health Ministry was
investigating the matter.

"We expect that there will be a certain level of complications as there
are in surgical interventions," Mrs. Lewis Fuller said. "What we are
trying to find out is whether this proportion that Dr. Lue is concerned
about, is above the expected level."


In response to Mr. Foster's claim, she argued that all patients who
entered the programme signed a consent form outlining the risks involved
with surgery.

She noted that the Health Ministry has received positive feedback on
surgeries administered. Mrs. Lewis Fuller said the number of patients
reported with complications amount to less than three per cent of the
1,854 patients who were treated in Cuba. She remarked that the Heath
Ministry, along with its Cuban counterparts, will be examining a larger
sample of patients to obtain a more accurate assessment of the situation.

Meanwhile, The Gleaner/ Power 106 News Centre was informed that the
Scientific Research Council (SRC) has been conducting tests on the
medications used by the patients as laboratory technicians are concerned
about the components of them.

However, Dr. Audia Barnett, executive director of the SRC, said she was
not able to comment on the matter at this time.

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