In the past week, Ai Fen, a doctor in Wuhan who was among the first to alert colleagues about the new COVID-19 disease that was spreading in late 2019, has received attention on Chinese social media for exposing a botched cataract surgery she received at a local eye hospital.
Ai, the head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital, posted a video on the social media platform Weibo on Dec. 31, 2020, revealing that she nearly lost her vision in her right eye after receiving cataract surgery at the Wuhan Aier Eye Hospital on May 25. She accused the head surgeon, Wang Yong, and the hospital, of malpractice.
Aier Eye Hospital is China’s leading ophthalmology hospital group with branches in Asia, Europe, and North America, according to the company’s website.
Cataract surgery, also called lens replacement surgery, involves removing the natural lens of the eye that has developed a cataract or a cloudy lens, and replacing it with an intraocular lens or a clear artificial lens.
In the video, Ai recalled that after the initial phone consultation and in-person visit with Wang, he strongly recommended cataract surgery and a top-grade artificial lens. She followed his suggestion and paid around 29,000 yuan (about $4,488) for the lens.
Soon after the surgery, Ai found out that her vision in her right eye deteriorated when she was at a doctor’s office to get a new pair of glasses. On July 9, she was surprised to learn that her eyesight, which was 0.2 prior to the operation, had dropped to 0.1.
On Oct. 23, Ai was diagnosed with retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency that occurs when the retina at the back of the eye pulls away from supportive tissue. If the condition is not treated promptly, it can cause permanent vision loss.
Ai’s poor eyesight affected her work and she left her job at the end of October.
In the video, Ai claimed that the hospital surgeon failed to conduct funduscopic (eyeground) and peripheral retina examinations before the surgery; the hospital did not promptly respond to her complaint; and she was given medical records, including images from her surgery, that were not hers.
Ai presented evidence of a document from one of the doctors at Wuhan Aier Eye Hospital, which confirmed that she did not receive an eyeground examination. However, Wang denied the accusation during a phone call with Ai and claimed that he did the examination, but it was “an incomplete one.” She recorded the conversation and uploaded it on her Weibo account.
In response to Ai’s allegations, Wuhan Aier Eye Hospital issued an official statement on Jan. 4. The administrators claimed that Ai was given three images from her cataract operation, insisting that they were authentic. However, the hospital admitted to committing a few errors such as the staff only recorded the first post-opt re-examination and failed to record the other appointments; the staff didn’t communicate clearly about the post-opt re-examination dates; and the lead surgeon failed to report Ai’s complaint promptly as required under hospital guidelines.
The hospital administrators expressed “remorse” for Ai’s “anxiety and pain.” But the hospital did not apologize or say that it would take responsibility for the incident.
The Chinese regime has gone to great lengths to conceal the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. It silenced eight doctors, including Ai Fen and Li Wenliang, after they posted on Chinese social media about a new form of pneumonia spreading in Wuhan in late December 2019. Li, who later died of the disease himself, has been described as a martyr.