The HCCC’s handling of a complaint about Dr Kerrie Meades, Ophthalmologist

One of our readers made a complaint to the NSW Health Care complaints Commission about Dr Kerrie Meades, Ophthalmologist.

He says he had been referred to her for help with the double vision he was experiencing, which was developing to the point where he was a danger to himself and others when driving a car, and if he’d been forced to give up driving a car, it would, for him, have been a disaster.

He spent 3 or 4 hours over a number of days in Dr Meades’s rooms at the cost of several hundred dollars, seeing her, her colleague, Dr Jennifer Sandbach, and a number of her orthoptists, from which he says he got no help at all, learnt nothing. All Dr Meades did was keep saying that the causes of double vision required “extensive investigation” as they could be very serious – no doubt so he would continue being seen by her and her people for as long as possible, so they could collect more fees from him, even though no progress was being made in helping him. Eventually he gave up on Dr Meades and her people and saw another Ophthalmologist, Dr Ross Fitzsimons, who, in the briefest of consultations, at a cost of less than $150, solved all his problems!

In the first 5 minutes, Dr Fitzsimons told him that to solve the practical problems of his double vision he should get his optometrist to put prisms in his glasses, which, when he did, it was like a miracle – with glasses with prisms in them it was as though he didn’t have double vision at all. Of course, Dr Meades and her people should have done the same, in the first 5 minutes, have told him about prisms in glasses, but, he claims that, in the 3 or 4 hours he spent in her rooms it wasn’t mentioned once by anyone. He says he is particularly bitter about this, because if they had, it would have reduced, by a number of months, the time when he was a danger to himself and others when driving a car.

And then, after he had provided him with a the history of his double vision, Dr Fitzsimons told him that it was incredibly unlikely that it was due to anything serious, but if he wanted to make sure, he could have an MRI of his brain, which he did and it was clear.

So, on the one hand, our reader says that 3 or 4 hours of his precious time were spent with Dr Meades and her people at a cost of several hundred dollars, and he wasn’t helped in any way, and on the other hand, in a short consultation with Dr Fitzsimons, at a cost of less than $150, his problems were solved completely.

He says he thought he’d make a complaint about Dr Meades to the Health Care Complaints Commission – just for fun.

When he did, amongst other things, he was told that, “A copy of your complaint was forward to Dr Meades and she has provided a response which is for the Commission’s assessment purposes only.” In other words, he was not going to be given the opportunity to counter anything she said. We would have thought that, at the very least, the Commission would be interested in anything the complainant might say in response to anything the health practitioner might say.

And then, as was to be expected, the HCCC missed the whole point of his complaint.

The point of his complaint was that – Fact 1: he spent 3 or 4 hours seeing Dr Meades and her people, at a cost of several hundred dollars, and got no help with his problems at all, and Fact 2: in complete contrast, he spent less than half an hour with Dr Fitzsimons, at a cost of less than $150, and all his problems were solved.

But his complaint was dismissed – he was told he had nothing to complain about. But he was given some hope? – he was told that he could request a review of this decision if he wanted to, which he did, which, to cut a long story short, resulted in him getting a letter from Commissioner Sue Dawson herself, which can be summed up in this one sentence – “Two doctors having different opinions or action plans about a patient does not necessarily mean that either practitioner’s complaint is unreasonable,” so¬†again his complaint had been dismissed.

So the fact that he’d spent 3 or 4 hours with Dr Meades, at a cost of several hundred dollars, and hadn’t been helped in any way, wasn’t unreasonable, couldn’t be considered as a basis for a complaint!!!.

Ms Dawson’s letter concluded with this paragraph – “I understand that this is not the outcome you were hoping for but I trust that this letter will assist in explaining the basis for the decision.”

Our reader says that, on the contrary, it was exactly the outcome he was expecting, if not hoping for, as it provided further indications as to how COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY USELESS the HCCC is, under Commissioner Dawson – information that can be presented to those who may be in a position to do something about it.

As we keep saying, 98%, if not 99%, of the people who submit complaints to the HCCC are told they have nothing to complain about – an insult to their intelligence.

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