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Docs ‘not immune’

Sanka Price

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PATIENTS WHO think they were “scammed” by their doctors can seek legal redress, says chairman of the Barbados Medical Council (BMC), Professor Emeritus Errol “Mickey” Walrond.
His advice comes in response to I Confess columns in the last two weeks in which two women stated that their doctors tried to fraudulently extract more fees from them. And both claimed that they were told of other women who were also duped in this way.
In the first confession, the woman said her doctor told her that she had the human papilloma virus (HPV) – the virus that increases the risk of developing cervical cancer if not detected early and effectively treated.
However, the doctor told her the test results were lost and needed to be redone, and that she had to pay for the new tests. The cost of this would have been $800. She objected, sought a second opinion and was told she did not have HPV.
Abnormal cells
In the second disclosure, the woman claimed that her doctor said her pap smear test showed ‘abnormal cells’, explained why, and recommended treatment. She underwent the colposcopy and cryosurgery treatment at a cost of more than $600.
A year later, after her annual pap test with the same doctor, she was once again told that “abnormal cells” were present. Sceptical, she got a second opinion from another doctor who, after only a week and a half, told her that her tests came back “normal”.
In response, Walrond said: “My advice to anyone who has paid for tests of any kind from a laboratory is to keep their receipt. If the doctor has lost the result or has not received the result, the laboratory can be checked [for a copy of the receipt]. If the tests or result cannot be found, then a repeat test has to be done without further payment.
“If further tests are ordered, then the patient is entitled to a full explanation of why. If the patient is not satisfied with the explanations offered, then the patient should ask for the results or a copy of them and ask for, or seek, a second opinion.
“In some instances a second laboratory opinion may be required on the specimen. Second opinions will also cost money in the private sector.”
Scam bid
Directly responding to the accusation that the doctors mentioned were trying to scam patients, the head of the BMC, which regulates the medical profession by ensuring that doctors are appropriately qualified to be registered to practise medicine in Barbados, monitors any claims or complaints against doctors, and monitors doctors’ activities and practices in Barbados, said:
“If a patient thinks that some ‘scam’ has gone on then they can, through their attorney, obtain the original result of the test. If doubt is being placed on the laboratory itself, then the original specimen should be requested [if possible] for another opinion.
“Any legal or professional conduct remedy will require that evidence such as mentioned above be gathered and presented.”
One respected Barbadian doctor, disturbed by the accusations against his colleagues, stated that, although unlikely, it is possible to have an abnormal pap smear as soon as one year after an abnormal pap smear treated by colposcopy and cryosurgery.
However, he stated that most doctors would usually have first repeated the first “abnormal” pap smear about three months after before having those two procedures done in a female with no previous abnormal pap smears, unless this one was really aggressive.
The veteran doctor stated that what was suspicious, however, was how a repeat pap smear done within weeks of the second abnormal pap smear and subsequent pap smears had all been normal so far.
In light of that, he said that the women should report these instances in confidence to the BMC through Professor Walrond for further investigation and action.
He added that “if proven you might save many other women, their husbands and boyfriends [and insurance companies too] this expense and psychological trauma, and the scam will be exposed”.

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