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Realities of Illegal Cataract Operations

Posted February. 13, 2005 23:05,   


Realities of illegal attracting patients-

According to the reporting team of the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, some ophthalmic hospitals around Seoul and Kyounggi area, including “A” ophthalmic hospital in Yoeuido in Yeoungdeungpo-gu, and “B” ophthalmic hospital in Samsungdong in Kangnam-gu, are attracting old people around senior centers for free cataract operations.

The most frequently used method the ophthalmic hospitals use is that head officials of the ophthalmic hospitals take seniors to their hospitals by a large bus after visiting senior centers in apartment complexes, offering some fruit and “free cataract operations.”

In the case of “A” ophthalmic hospital in Yoeuido, it brought about 100 old people to the hospital, conducted eye tests on them, and did cataract surgery on scores of them. It takes about thirty minutes to remove cataracts.

Although the patients are exempted from their share of the costs, they have to pay for an eye test.

For another ophthalmic hospital in Il-san in Kyounggi Province, it gave the money amount of the ones’ shares to the elderly and made them pay back the money to it.

Some ophthalmic hospitals even hold free surgery events with religious organizations. Head officials of hospitals receive a commission per successful case after introducing patients for cataract operations to a specific doctor.

Medical law prohibits the attraction of patients and the exemption of medical costs, which makes some hospitals’ current activities illegal.

One ophthalmologist in Kang-nam area said, “It’s lamentable to see some doctors who are using free surgery for commercial benefit that was intended for a benevolent art at the expenses of a doctor’s profits.”

Concerns for side effects-

A patient who had a cataract surgery should at least get post-surgery care for the first few months. However, it’s hard to get post-surgery care for those who live a great distance from the hospital where a patient underwent an operation.

Mrs. Jo (78. Koyang-si in Kyounggi province) had a free cataract operation at a hospital in Seoul last October. She said frankly that it’s really difficult to get to the hospital in Seoul and she feels sorry to complain of pain because she got free surgery.

Furthermore, some hospitals use poor-quality medicines or reuse one-time-use equipment in order to make a good profit under the situation where they receive only the insured amount provided by the National Health Insurance Corporation, not a patient’s share of the cost.

An official of the Korean Ophthalmological Society commented, saying, “There are more serious cases in which hospitals cajole seniors to have surgeries, even if they don’t need them.”

As for the illegal activities by some hospitals, an official of the Ministry of Health and Welfare said, “The Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to actively regulate those illegal medical activities through public health centers.”

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com corekim@donga.com