The chairman of the Board of Trustees of IMPACT Foundation Bangladesh has sent a rejoinder to The Daily Star report titled ‘Patients still paying for a lax eye surgery: A year later, victims of a catastrophic cataract surgery now suffering from pain’ published on December 04, 2019.
In their rejoinder they claimed that Impact has been in compliance with all the directives from the High Court verdict in respect of payment of compensation to 20 unfortunate victims and also taking full care of their eye health to date.
They further claimed that even before being directed by the High Court, Impact initiated to take full responsibility of their treatment and post-operative care in ‘Specialised Hospitals’ and also decided to provide them financial aid for their rehabilitation within the family and community.
In the rejoinder, they provided a list of nine patients, whom Impact reimbursed a total of Tk 32,805 for operation, Tk 21,909 for treatment and medicines, and Tk 23,655 for transportation.
They claimed that four patients including Mrs Hawaton and Mr Oli Mohammad received the most recent treatment. Impact spent Tk 1,050 for Mrs Hawaton on November 18 and Tk 610 for Mr Oli on November 25.
They said that the follow-up treatment modality was jointly planned by Impact and the Chuadanga civil surgeon. It was decided that when any of those patients would report with any complains, she/he will be examined by the eye specialist of the Chuadanga District Hospital and as per his prescription, Impact would buy all medicines. This has been the practice till to date and it is not at all any breach of verdict of the High Court.
Regarding reimbursement of surgery cost, it was decided in consultation with the civil surgeon and the Chuadanga District Hospital ophthalmologist that Impact will reimburse maximum Tk 7,000 for cataract surgery, as the rates of such operation in reputable hospitals like Islamia Eye Hospital, National Institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) are within that amount. Impact always suggests the patients to have their surgeries in these or similar hospitals in Bangladesh, the rejoinder read.
It went on to explain that Impact has an image of being a hospital for the poor, its resources are limited and it has developed a low-cost health care model to serve the greater section of the poor communities in the region. So, Impact cannot afford to pay someone for expensive eye surgery, when the similar surgery can be done in Government or NGO hospitals at a much lower cost.
Regarding the eye surgeon, Dr Shaheen, Impact mentioned that he is an experienced eye surgeon, who has operated more than 30,000 cataract patients over a period of 15 years. Such unfortunate incident has happened only once in his long career. While doing operations for 3 consecutive days in March, 2018, only the patients of 2nd day had suffered this catastrophe.
Also, as per the court verdict, there was no negligence from the part of the surgeon.
They also noted that there is no reason for the other eye to be affected due to the previously damaged eye. Besides, almost all the patients are elderly and at this age, most of the patients are likely to develop cataract in their other eyes.
If such patients come to Impact Masudul Haque Community Health Centre (IMHCH) for removal of the cataract Impact will do so free of charge, the rejoinder stated.
Reply of the correspondent
The report was mainly focused on the plight of the 20 people, who lost one of their eyes following the 2018 cataract surgery at Impact Masudul Haque Community Health Centre.
We revisited the unfortunate event and how it is still impacting the victims in their daily lives. The report in no way was meant to tarnish the image of the health centre of IMPACT.
In our report, we clearly stated that Impact provided compensation to all patients as per High Court directive. It also stated what Impact is doing for the victims now.
The report included comment from Dr Safiul Kabir from Impact Masudul Haque Community Health Centre in Chuadanga, and clearly stated his denial of the allegations made by the victims about their current treatment support by Impact.