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Cataract surgery proves costly for patients' eyesight
By Zhou Weirong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-29 06:51

SHANGHAI: Police and medical departments are currently investigating a serious medical scandal in Suzhou, East China's Anhui Province, in which nine out of 10 cataract patients had to have their eyeballs removed following cataract surgery in an allegedly non-sterile environment.

An initial investigation showed that this medical mishap occurred as a result of illegal co-operation between Anhui Suzhou City Hospital and unlicensed Shanghai Shunchunyang Science and Technology Trading Co.

In 2003, the Suzhou hospital signed a long-term contract with the Shanghai company to co-operate on the business of providing cataract operations for patients.

According to the contract, the hospital would provide medical equipment and find patients while the Shanghai company would arrange for "medical experts," to carry out surgery, a profitable co-operation for both parties.

It was revealed however, that the Shanghai company was not licensed to provide medical services and although the "medical experts" were qualified doctors, they were not registered to practise in the region.

Xu Qing, a chief physician from No 9 People's Hospital under the medical college of Shanghai Jiaotong University, was recruited by the Shanghai company on December 11 to carry out corneal transplant operations on 10 cataract patients hoping to regain their eyesight.

Following surgery, the patients' eyes became seriously infected. Emergency treatment failed after transferrals to Shanghai the next day, which resulted in doctors having to remove the eyes of 9 patients and partially remove the cornea of the remaining one.

A spokesman surnamed Tian of the Shanghai hospital told China Daily that Dr Xu had been urged to stop practising while the investigation was being carried out.

He admitted that physician Xu had frequently been practising in neighbouring provinces without reporting to the management.

"He is a capable and experienced oculist who has undertaken hundreds of such operations for over 10 years without a single case of infection. The problem is most likely to be insufficient sterilization by the Suzhou hospital," Tian said.

The Suzhou hospital was unavailable for comment.

The Shanghai Municipal Public Health Bureau has suspended Xu's licence to practise medicine.

The Anhui Provincial Department of Public Health has also taken punitive action by confiscating the hospital's illegal income from the co-operation of 318,600 yuan (US$39,330) and it has imposed an additional fine of 30,000 yuan (US$3,700). The Suzhou hospital has also been urged to terminate its contract with Shanghai Shunchunyang Science and Technology Trading Co immediately.

Meanwhile, both the Shanghai and Anhui public health departments issued circulars, encouraging medical institutions at all levels to strengthen their medical team management to ensure the quality and safety of medical services.

(China Daily 12/29/2005 page2)

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