Eye surgeries at Lagoa clinic end in tragedy


Lagoa-based eye clinic I-QMed is under scrutiny from health officials after three former patients were left blinded and one suffering from a severe infection following treatment at the medical facility.

In total, four patients suffered severe eye infections after receiving surgical interventions at I-QMed on July 20.

One of the patients had been operated on to place intraocular lenses, while the other three were treated for the removal of cataracts. All were admitted to Hospital dos Capuchos in Lisbon after suffering complications.

Dr Franciscus Versteeg says only the investigation by the health authorities will determine the real reasons for the accidents. Photo: DAISY SAMPSON – THE RESIDENT GROUP.
Dr Franciscus Versteeg says only the investigation by the health authorities will determine the real reasons for the accidents. Photo: DAISY SAMPSON – THE RESIDENT GROUP.

The patient who underwent intraocular lens surgery, a 35-year-old Brazilian woman from Odemira (Alentejo) was admitted to hospital on July 22 with a severe infection and, at the time the Algarve Resident went to press on Wednesday, was still undergoing treatment. However, doctors say the prognosis is uncertain. 

The other three patients arrived at the hospital on July 26 suffering from a serious eye infection, called endophthalmitis.

A spokesman from the Lisbon Hospital confirmed that these three older patients treated by I-QMed had permanently lost vision in one eye and were declared clinically blind on August 9.

They were a Portuguese man from Vila Real de Santo António, aged 83, a Briton from Funchal (Madeira), aged 66, and a Portuguese woman from Beja (Alentejo), aged 82.

Since entering the hospital in Lisbon, the British man has had one of his eyes removed due to the severity of his infection.

Franciscus Versteeg, the Dutch doctor who operated on the four patients, has already appeared before the General Inspectorate of Activities in Health (Inspecção-Geral das Actividades em Saúde – IGAS), the body responsible for investigating medical malpractices, at a meeting held at Lagoa Health Centre on Sunday, August 8.

He is now obliged to deliver videos of the ophthalmologic surgeries and equipment used in the procedures to the inspectorate for laboratory analysis.

It is understood that the doctor worked with a psychologist, who assisted him on his surgeries and provided post-surgery care in the doctor’s absence.

According to a statement from I-QMed posted on their website on August 9, “four patients who underwent treatment at the clinic on July 20 have developed a condition known as endophthalmitis, which poses a risk to the patients’ vision. Surgery should provide good vision, but sometimes it may eventually result in poor vision or even blindness. We are aware of the problem and we feel deeply saddened by the condition of patients.”

The statement continued: “During the past two weeks, we have been assessing the causes behind the infections and held a meeting with health inspectors and other professionals where extensive information was presented for future analysis.

“We hope that people will be able to understand that the situation is more complex than the superficial comments presented in the media and a full conclusion to the case may take some time to be reached.”

The Inspector-General of Activities in Health is investigating the case and it has been confirmed that the clinic was operating without a licence and that it is currently closed for “remodelling works”.

According to Álvaro Almeida from the Health Regulatory Agency (ERS), “the clinic is not registered with the ERS. We had no knowledge of the existence of this clinic and, therefore, it is operating illegally.”

At the time of going to press, it was still unknown whether the victims were going to make an official complaint against the doctor, who said in an interview with Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias that he was willing to “make peace with the patients” and pay them financial compensation.

A spokesman for I-QMed told the Algarve Resident on Wednesday: “Dr Versteeg is unable to make a comment about the case as it is currently being investigated by the authorities and he has been told not to talk about it until the case is concluded.”

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