Parents loaned money for son’s overseas operation, want State compensation

Couple says Mater Dei delays in operating son forced them to go to UK for urgent eye operation, now want compensation for expenses

The parents of a 20-year-old who had to be taken abroad for an urgent eye operation abroad due to delay to be operated at Mater Dei Hospital, are insisting that they be compensated by the State for the expense incurred.

The Ombudsman referred the complaint to the Commissioner for Health for investigation, after the parents said their son was diagnosed with an eye condition and needed surgery, but was unsuccessfully operated at Mater Dei Hospital with the result that he lost vision in one eye.

The Commissioner for Health has insisted that the parents’ request for the reimbursement is legitimate.

The parents were worried because the other eye was also giving cause for concern. The patient was being seen and followed up by ophthalmic surgeons both privately and at MDH, who decided that the patient should be operated and therefore, he was put on the waiting list.

But a year had passed, and there was no response from MDH, and no date was given for the operation. The parents decided to take their son to the UK, and to finance the procedure, they had to borrow money. The patient was operated in the UK and vision was adequately maintained.

The parents asked the Ombudsman to intervene to be refunded the costs related to the operation. The parents argued that delay from MDH part was increasing the risk for their son to lose his eyesight. 

The Department of Health stated that since the patient had chosen to travel to the UK for treatment privately, without obtaining authorisation to do so, they could not accept the request for reimbursement.

The Commissioner for Health, who analysed the complaint, said the decision was made because their son was risking losing his eyesight.

The Department of Health stated that since the patient was due to be operated in Malta, there were no plans to refer the patient to the Treatment Abroad Committee for consideration. The Department of Health reiterated their position and stated that since the patient went for the operation to the UK, no follow up with MDH was reported from the patient’s side. 

In his reaction, the Commissioner for Health stated that the statement that there was no follow-up from the patient’s part following the operation in the UK is not correct since the patient was later sent for follow-up treatment through the government scheme.

The Commissioner insisted that even though MDH promised the parents that the operation would be conducted in ‘a few weeks’, a year had passed, and no date was forthcoming from MDH.  The Commissioner for Health insisted that the parents’ request for the reimbursement is legitimate and made representations in this respect with the Ministry for Health from which he is still awaiting a reply.