A surgeon has told how he pulled out of plans to travel to Scotland to help women impacted by mesh injuries after delays and an apparent “war of attrition”.
US-based Dr Dionysios Veronikis said there had been resistance from surgeons in Scotland to plans for him to operate on women.
While he said he had made an “unselfish offer” to help the women, many of whom have been left with painful complications after treatment with vaginal mesh, he said he had “moved away” from the project as he did not want to give them “false hope”.
He told MSPs on Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee he has successfully removed mesh inserts from thousands of women, performing more than 600 such operations a year.
With the expert now unwilling to come to Scotland to treat patients, Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw and Labour’s Neil Findlay both suggested an alternative could be for the Scottish Government to put up funds to pay for affected women to travel to Missouri and be treated by Dr Veronikis there.
Two of Mr Carlaw’s constituents have already travelled to the US for surgery with the doctor.
The former Scottish Conservative leader said there appeared to have been a “professionally-organised obstruction” to the surgeon coming to Scotland – adding that former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood may have become “complicit” in this at some point.
Mr Carlaw said: “The only viable option for many of these women now, if they choose to have it, is to go to Dr Veronikis in America.”
Asking women to fund this themselves is “invidious” he said, saying Holyrood should try to push the Scottish Government to have “a formal fund made available to make that possible”.
Mr Findlay said: “The Scottish Government should now be looking at agreeing to pay for women to go and have a mesh removal with Dr Veronikis.”
In July, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced the NHS is to set up a specialist service to perform mesh removal operations on those women who have been left suffering after surgery.
But Dr Veronikis questioned whether women would be willing to be treated at the specialist centre, if they were to be cared for by the surgical teams who had performed their initial operations.
He said: “My offer to come to Scotland was so that women would not have to spent their life savings, sell their homes, to borrow money, to do whatever they needed to do to get to me.”
He said a delegation from Scotland had been due to travel to St Louis to see him, but trips planned for both July and August 2019 were cancelled.
A group, including Dr Calderwood, came over in November that year, for 24 hours, he added.
Dr Vernikis said the then chief medical officer had made clear to him she would complete the regulatory process necessary for him to come to Scotland within a month of this.
But he said she “did a U-turn on that agreement” and instead asked him to come to Scotland in the spring of 2020 an attend an event to canvass for the sponsorship he would need.
“My involvement in this project is flavoured by delay and what appeared to be a war of attrition,” Dr Veronikis told the committee.
“Whatever the motivations, the outcome demonstrated to me there was no sense of urgency in the project to help the mesh injured women.
“We’ve been at this now almost 18 months. In the time I have spent engaging, I could have probably operated on 50 women.”
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