Sightless after eye op

2008-03-15 00:00

A woman who had eye surgery at Grey’s Hospital now finds herself totally blind for two months because essential supplies ran out halfway through her operation.

According to Dr Enslin Uys, an eye specialist and vitreo-retinal surgeon who does work in the hospital’s Retinal Unit, the hospital failed to tell him that stocks of silicon oil had run out. The oil is inserted into the eyeball to keep the retina flat for three months after surgery. Apparently, supplies that were ordered in January had not arrived.

Uys was forced instead to insert gas into his patient’s only functional eye, which, unlike the silicon oil, causes temporary blindness for eight weeks until the gas is fully absorbed. The patient has no sight at all in her other eye.

Uys said this not only means the patient will not be able to see for at least eight weeks, but also that he cannot do follow-up or laser treatment on the eye, a procedure he said is much needed in this case.

“My frustration as a surgeon is the fact that I can only do two operations for retinal surgery in a week: that is eight people a month. I have a long list of people on the waiting list and every Tuesday new patients are added on to that list. If we keep running out of essential retinal products, that list gets longer.”

He said that many of the patients are poor people who cannot afford medical care but are desperate for help, and as a doctor he is trying to help, but due to the lack of funds or poor management, he cannot do sufficient work.

The silicon oil has since been replaced. Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the hospital had “experienced a procurement challenge”.

“The product was delivered to the hospital … It is business as usual,” he said.

However, Uys said the issue of the hospital running out of consumable goods is a recurring problem and the explanation often given for the shortages, is that it is the end of a financial year.

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