By Annette Chrysostomou
Doctors are refusing to speed up a simple but badly needed cataract operation for a man in Limassol, ignoring a recommendation by the hospital’s complaints commission that he receive treatment immediately because a state doctor had misdiagnosed his condition for years.
Surgery on Robert Cracknell, a Cypriot citizen, has already been delayed by nearly three years, as initially a doctor at the hospital misdiagnosed the case, prescribing eye drops and declaring that an operation was not necessary.
But Cracknell’s eye problems kept getting worse.
“I had to keep changing my glasses, and I was sure that this was not right; and it was also very expensive,” he said.
Eventually he complained to the hospital’s director.
The director immediately consulted a hospital doctor, though not the one who originally made the diagnosis who was no longer working for the hospital. A thorough examination with completely different equipment was conducted and the doctor decided a cataract operation was definitely necessary. Cracknell was consequently placed on a waiting list.
After learning that the waiting list meant a further delay of around eight months, Cracknell approached the complaints commission of Limassol General Hospital which decided that he was completely justified in asking to be operated upon immediately.
“He was right. An eight month delay was not only excessive, but unreasonable because he was already delayed by at least two-and-a-half years,” Andreas Alexandrou from the commission told the Sunday Mail.
The department duly informed the ministry of health of its recommendation. “The ministry is not forced to act upon our decision, it is only an opinion. However, the law says that they should very seriously consider it,” Alexandrou explained.
The ministry approved the request and Cracknell was informed by the health ministry to call the hospital to arrange a date for the operation.
“But they told me ‘You must wait your turn. Who do you think you are that you can jump the queue?’” Cracknell said.
When he complained to the ministry about the further delays, Cracknell said he was met with shrugs. He quoted senior administrator at the health ministry Marousa Ierominidou as saying, “What can I do when the doctor won’t do anything?”
Ierominidou told the Sunday Mail this week she could not comment on the case, but another medical services official said Cracknell should apply again, directly to the minister, stating his reasons.
“Only the ministry can make these decisions,” she said.
Health ministry spokeswoman Maria Lantidou said she too could not comment on this particular case, but added that generally if there is a waiting list for a particular surgery, the patient undergoes the surgery immediately only when the medical condition puts their life at risk. Where a doctor evaluates that the medical condition of the patient is not life-threatening, the patient is put on the waiting list she said.
“This practice is by no means a ‘solution’,” she acknowledged. “The ministry of health is working for the waiting lists problem to be solved.”
But Alexandrou from the complaints commission observed that the waiting lists for cataract surgery don’t necessarily have to be that long, even though the ministry cannot hire further doctors.
“We have recommended in the past to set up two weeks to do everybody somewhere else. This is a very simple procedure and it doesn’t need to be done by the only two doctors in Limassol who carry out such operations. Understandably, they have to do the most serious surgeries first.”
In the meantime, Robert Cracknell is still without surgery, while his eyesight is steadily deteriorating, and his considerable efforts have left him distressed.
“I can’t see at night, I find it difficult to drive, and I am very frustrated after all this time,” he told the Sunday Mail.