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HDC Case: Optometrist fails to provide adequate care

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan released a report today finding an optometrist in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code). The optometrist was found to have breached the Code for failing to recognise a woman’s need for further examination, and for failing to tell the woman to seek assistance if her eye deteriorated further.

On 5 December 2015, a woman went to her optometrist for a check-up. The woman had a history of surgically corrected short-sightedness and told her optometrist that vision in her right eye was deteriorating, that she was seeing spots (floaters), and that vision in her eye was obstructed. The optometrist examined the woman’s eye, but did not specifically examine her retina or provide her with clear advice on what to do if her symptoms deteriorated.

The woman’s vision continued to deteriorate, and on 7 January 2016 she was seen by another optometrist who found that the woman’s retina had detached, and that she required immediate surgery.

Mr Allan found that the woman’s history of short-sightedness combined with her new floater symptoms indicated the need for a dilated retinal examination at the earlier appointment. He noted that without this examination the optometrist could not exclude the possibility of a retinal tear or detachment, and was critical that she did not consider it necessary to conduct this examination. Mr Allan also found that the optometrist should have given the woman clear follow-up advice to return promptly if her vision deteriorated further.

The optometrist has retired from practice but Mr Allan has recommended that the New Zealand Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board conduct a review of her competence should she return to practice.

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