Whangarei teen lost eye after expert's admin error

By Imran Ali

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Despite nine surgeries in one year, Whangarei teenager Jared McGiven's right eye could not be saved.

Yesterday, an optometrist who treated Jared was suspended for failing to promptly refer the Parua Bay teenager for specialist treatment that could have saved his eye.

Today, Jared will undergo a medical procedure at the New Zealand Artificial Eye Service in Takapuna, where an ocularist will insert an artificial eye.

The New Zealand Health and Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday suspended the former Northland optometrist - who now lives overseas - from practising for six months and ordered that he not work as a sole practitioner for three years after resuming his job.

The optometrist has name suppression for 14 days, the period within which he can appeal the tribunal's decision.

Jared first visited the optometrist on December 9, 2010 when he was 16, but the healthcare professional did not know what the abnormality was and did not record the condition, a retinal detachment, as a diagnosis in his clinical notes.

Jared attended a second appointment on December 16, 2010 when more photographs of his eye were taken.

He was advised to return in three months for more photos.

It was not until February 7, 2011, or about eight weeks after the first consultation, that the optometrist faxed a referral letter to ophthalmologist Brian Kent-Smith.

The referral letter made no mention of the first consultation on December 9 nor were photos taken that day provided to Dr Kent-Smith who promptly diagnosed a right retinal detachment and arranged for surgery.

The optometrist has also been ordered to pay $10,000 in costs to the tribunal.But by then it was too late, and Jared's eye had to be removed.

Dr Kent-Smith and another ophthalmologist, Dr Philip Polkinghorne, both agreed that the optometrist should have referred Jared immediately.

However, the Northland optometrist said it was a genuine mistake due to misfiling of records.

He maintained that stance during the tribunal hearing in Whangarei yesterday, although he accepted his failure to identify the detached retina and to promptly refer Jared to an ophthalmologist.

Tribunal deputy chairwoman Kate Devonport said although charges of malpractice and negligence against the optometrist have been established, he would face suspension instead of having to pay a fine.

The optometrist has also been ordered to pay $10,000 in costs to the tribunal.

Jared's mother, Susan McGiven, told the Advocate that, luckily, health insurance paid for the surgeries, as each operation cost up to $15,000.

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) would not pay for the treatment nor could her family file civil action in court, as the law prohibits them from doing so.

Jared would have to prove that the optometrist was guilty of gross negligence before the court could accept his compensation claim but the latest charges do not fall into that category.

Mrs McGiven said she was pleased with the tribunal's ruling and that, at least, someone finally decided to act upon her complaint during the two-year fight.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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