KEMH head surgeon calls medical tourism claims ‘unfair’ – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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KEMH head surgeon calls medical tourism claims ‘unfair’

Claims that emergency surgical procedures were cancelled to accommodate medical tourism are unfair attacks according to head surgeons at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Chief of Surgery,Wesley Miller, Chief of Anaesthesia, Richard Hammond, and Director of Surgical Services, Loretta Santucci, sent a Letter to the Editor stating it was their “duty to set the record straight”.

They were responding to a story printed in

The Royal Gazette last week which stated local patients may need to brace themselves for longer waiting times for surgery.

One medical practitioner knew of at least one surgery being cancelled and another delayed due to High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

The prostate cancer treatment not available in the United States has brought 200 “medical tourists” and their families and doctors to the Island since being made available nine months ago.

This is said to have generated a total of 1,000 bed nights for local hotels.

The letter sent from the head surgeons said: “We categorically want to state for the public record that no emergency surgery has ever been cancelled due to HIFU.

“Certainly an emergency C-Section would take priority over any elective procedure, even those provided locally. Such a clinical decision may have life or death implications.

“If any medical practitioner has proof otherwise, he or she is ethically bound to report the incident through the correct channels to ensure a thorough investigation. No incident report has been filed with us in accordance with proper professional practice.”

Opposition MP Louise Jackson told this paper yesterday a constituent had originally complained of a surgery being delayed or postponed due to HIFU.

This led her to raise questions in the House of Assembly about whether HIFU existed and whether it had led to any surgery times being pushed back.

Mrs Jackson said: “I think it needs to be said that this situation started with the Minister of Health Zane DeSilva and several Government Ministers flatly denying that HIFU existed in Bermuda and that there were any delayed or canceled operations at KEMH in regards to HIFU.”

She said she was initially called “a liar”, however it was later confirmed that HIFU had existed on the Island for the past nine months.

Last night Mrs Jackson questioned whether the doctors were “coerced to write these letters after the incident became public”.

“I hope their jobs were not put on the line. It's obvious that if HIFU is using an emergency operating room and all other operating rooms are in use and there is an emergency that patients must have to wait or have surgeries cancelled.”

A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Hospitals Board said: “HIFU has not caused wait times to increase as HIFU is undertaken at times when there are few or no other surgeries going on, such as Saturdays.

“The HIFU surgeon is from overseas, he brings a specialised team, and services provided by local professionals, such as anaesthesia are carried out by people who would not otherwise be needed.

“For example, there is always an anaesthetist on call for emergencies. This person would not be in the HIFU surgery.”

The surgeon team, whose full letter can be found on page four of today's paper, said they found it “dismaying that an issue such as this is being played out politically”.

“The allegations made unfairly undermine our hospital as well as our physicians and nursing staff. It also shows a disregard for the wellbeing of our patients.”

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Published March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am (Updated March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am)

KEMH head surgeon calls medical tourism claims ‘unfair’

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