Victims of botched eye operations funded by a charity will finally receive legal advice and medical support from the Quintana Roo government more than two years after the surgeries that left some of them blind.
Scores of elderly patients received cataract surgery through a program operated by Fundación Cinépolis, a cinema chain, between September and October 2015.
Operations were carried out by doctors at a Cancún eye health clinic called Instituto de Salud Visual (Isvi) and fully paid for by the foundation through a program called “Del Amor Nace la Vista,” or “From Love Sight is Born.”
But after the surgeries, at least 27 patients reported infections and other complications apparently caused by bacteria present in the operating rooms. Many patients were left completely blind and two women were eventually forced to have one of their eyes removed.
Now, the head of the state government’s victims’ care agency says it will contact those who suffered ill effects to offer legal advice, find out their current health condition and establish what treatment they require.
“We’ve only just found out about the situation through the media. We are seeking to locate them because no one has contacted us formally,” Karla Rivero González said.
“If they initiated a complaint we definitely have to include legal advice. Find out the status of the complaint . . . [and] what procedural stage [it is in], among other elements,” she added.
One of the victims is Isla Mujeres resident Hortensia Tepal Puc, 67, whose right eye was removed a month after she was first operated on at Isvi in September 2015.
“I lost my eye. They operated on me and I lost it because it got infected . . .” she told the newspaper El Universal.
After the first operation, Tepal recalled, the doctor who completed the botched surgery told her “you’re not going to see anymore” and sent her to another clinic to have the infected eye removed at his own expense.
“The one who damaged my eyes, he paid, I don’t know how much they charged him to cut my eye out,” she said, adding that she was never told what went wrong in the original surgery or what the cause of the infection was.
Since then, her life has been turned upside down and she is still struggling to come to terms with her loss.
“I almost don’t accept it. Sometimes I think about it at night, I ask God: ‘Help me Father, help me with my eyes . . . It’s very unpleasant. I’m not the same as before.”
Before the surgery, representatives from the federal senior citizens’ agency Inapam arrived on the island to find suitable candidates for the Cinépolis program, Tepal remembered.
“Go, go to Isvi [they said] and they gave us the address and we had to go there so they would operate on us,” she said.
Following complaints, the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risk (Cofepris) ordered the closure of the clinic in December 2015 but nobody has been held responsible for the damage caused and the doctors who performed the operations have disappeared, evading accountability.
Anti-medical negligence foundation No Más Negligencias Médicas filed five civil complaints against Isvi on behalf of the victims last year and also lodged criminal complaints with the state Attorney General’s office but little progress has been made, leaving victims to endure a second injustice of impunity.
Fernando Avilez, who heads the group, told El Universal that both the civil and criminal cases are stalled almost a year after the complaints were first filed.
He also rejected claims that the patients — many of whom are indigenous Mayans living in remote communities — would have recovered from the infections in their eyes. On the contrary, the infections threatened their lives, he said.
Thanks to the foundation, Tepal now has an ocular prosthesis, which has improved her physical appearance and self-confidence but it’s scant compensation for all the suffering she has endured.
None of the victims has received monetary compensation although former state governor Roberto Borge did pay for some victims’ transportation and accommodation costs when they were subsequently treated at an eye clinic in Mexico City.
Victims hope that the government’s new interest in their plight will lead to their case progressing and compensation being paid.
Meanwhile, Tepal said they remain in the shadows, “praying to God for more light.”
Source: El Universal (sp)