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Seeing is believing. . St James Hospital Eye Clinics. Malta

Corrective eye surgery with successful results. Interview with Jean Claude Muscat and team.

Saint James Eye Hospital Clinics are experiencing growing demand for corrective eye laser surgery from people who have seen friends and family throw away their glasses and lenses following successful, painless and professional treatment.

CEO Jean Claude Muscat is responsible for turning one hospital into a byword for medical innovation and expertise in Malta. Under his leadership, the hospitals and clinics have grown and developed into world class environments.

Improvements worldwide have transformed surgeries from significant operations with long recovery periods to ‘walk in walk out’ experiences and Saint James opened their purpose built ophthalmic centre of excellence in 2016 to meet this demand.

Jean Claude Muscat’s strategic direction focuses on the establishment of further clinics offering the highest standards. As he says; ‘We want to be the benchmark for all eye clinics.’

Hence the affiliation with The Franceso Carones Ophthalmic Institute who are world leaders in refractive surgery, thus ensuring constant achievement of the highest order.

With a €2m investment in the Eye Clinic to date and more planned, rigorous in-house training for staff and plans for a Saint James Ophthalmic Educational Arm, Jean Claude Muscat has his sights clearly set.

Other Countries

In 2009, Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic began a major investment in eye clinics in Hungary. The first hospital has achieved JCI Accreditation. Joint Commission International is a US system of recognising worldwide hospitals as having reached a guaranteed standard of quality and is a seal of approval as the testing and requirements are rigorous.

Health Tourism

Neither Malta nor Saint James have really promoted themselves for health tourism despite having a financial edge on the UK and other European markets.

For health tourists, a stay of at least one week in Malta would be advisable. At Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic, the first screening appointment will take approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours. The actual procedure lasts 20 minutes and general appointment times post care are: one day, one week, one month.

The ‘one month’ can be performed by any competent optician anywhere in the world. The twenty-four-hour first appointment and Seven Day follow up appointment are more important and so time should be factored in.

Getting ready to see things differently

The procedure is designed as a carefully constructed assessment with fully trained staff ready to assuage worries, answer questions and prepare the patient before a battery of tests to evaluate one’s eligibility to undergo the procedure.

Full patient history and issues are included in the report to provide the most comprehensive diagnosis and hence treatment available anywhere in the world.

What procedures can you undertake at the Clinic?

We met Andrei Camenzuli, Clinic Manager - calm, professional and friendly - he is justifiably proud of the clinic which is intelligently designed to create a restful environment; airy and spacious, immaculately clean and welcoming, the first impression is favourable.

There are private cubicle waiting rooms with safes, tea and coffee facilities, WIFI access, TV screens and comfortable chairs for rest and privacy either before or after diagnosis and post-operative check-ups. Dedicated wheelchair access and disabled facilities are readily available. Furthermore, there are three Patient Care Rooms for pre- and post-surgery – with shower and toilet facilities, comfortable chairs, guest facilities and subtle lighting.

The hefty investment is visible as you progress through the clinic and see the latest Zeiss equipment and Apple screens. The whole system is safeguarded through bespoke software. This leads to precise diagnosing which guarantees fully accurate surgery where applicable. Interconnectivity is key and all the equipment is linked to ensure that patient data are continuously available to the medical team at all stages of the process.

Once the extremely rigorous testing is completed, the patient is then advised about the optimal surgery for their condition and any issues can be discussed and clarified.

The latest, safest and most successful procedures are as follows:

Treatments Offered

SMILE™ (Small Incision Lenticular Extraction)

FEMTOLASIK™ and Presbyond™ Laser Blended Vision

Presbyond™ Laser Vision Correction

Refractive Lens Exchange / Cataract Surgery

SMILE™ – is the most advanced, minimally invasive treatment for the correction of myopia and astigmatism.

FEMTOLASIK™ – laser assisted in situ keratomileusis involves a microscopic cut being made to the cornea using a special laser (Femtolaser) and the Excimer laser is then used to correct the refractive error.

Presbyond Laser Vision cures the need for bifocals. One eye is profiled for distance vison and the other for mid-range and thus sight is balanced and ‘restored’ removing the need - as a far as possible - for the use of glasses and lenses.

Refractive Lens Exchange is a non-laser, internal eye procedure. RLE involves removing a clear natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens thus doing away with the need for glasses and lenses even at a more advanced age.

The Procedure

Once the patient has been diagnosed and booked, the next stage is extremely rapid. Surgery on both eyes usually takes about 15 or 20 minutes maximum. Recovery times are swift: there are no beds in the hospital as only local anaesthetic is used.

Recovery time is within 24 hours BUT, and all the surgeons are at pains to stress this, post care is crucial for the overall health of the patient and his/her eyes. The care is neither onerous nor complicated but more about basic hygiene. The only restriction is no swimming for 3 weeks.

What are the success rates for Laser Eye Surgery?

Research carried out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in 2006, considered laser eye surgery both safe and effective. Success rates for LASIK are accepted to be 98% according to American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and, as of September 2017 doctors performing laser vision corrective surgery using the revolutionary SMILE refractive technology have now surpassed one million procedures worldwide.

Read three patients’ testimonials and see what Saint James Hospital Eye Clinics could do for you.

Meet the surgeon

All advice before undertaking laser eye surgery emphasises the need to meet the surgeon, to know his or her qualifications and experience and to feel comfortable with understanding precisely what you are undertaking and what your likely result will be.

Dr Ivan Vella MD MRCS, LCP, DO, FRCS, FRCOphth

For Dr Vella laser eye surgery is a passion not a job. Trained in Malta, the UK and the USA, he is not only expert in the latest generation of laser technology but fully trained in diagnosing and treating all eye conditions over the last twenty years.

Patient Review Silvana Muscat

Presbyond Laser Blended Surgery

Silvana began experiencing problems reading small print about seven years ago, so glasses became part of her new norm. She, like many, assumed laser eye surgery would be an expensive and onerous operation. However, having seen a nephew undertake successful laser surgery, Silvana made enquiries, underwent a rigorous testing procedure before having surgery in July 2017. And now?

‘I can assure you this was the best thing that happened to me this year. I recommend the intervention to anyone who can do it. Now I feel great; no more looking for my glasses to read a message on my phone, or to check a recipe. I am really glad I did this, I never imagined it could really happen and have such a positive impact on me’.

Dr Franco Mercieca MD FEBO FRCOphth (London)

Trained in Malta and the UK, Dr Mercieca is an innovator in eyecare surgery, especially laser treatments. He was in the vanguard of sutureless cataract surgery and set up the Eye Bank in Malta to allow planned corneal transplants.

Patient Review Ariadne Massa

SMILE surgery

Ariadne was 16 when she first developed a sight deficiency. She opted for a mixture of contact lenses and glasses to suit her lifestyle but always wanted a ‘cure’. Fear of laser surgery made her postpone doing anything until she discovered the implications of SMILE – a bladeless technology – and that it was available in Malta.

Following a thorough examination and a week without contact lenses in preparation for the examination, she was diagnosed and booked for SMILE within 4 weeks to suit her diary. Her concerns were dealt with in a highly professional and reassuring manner which encouraged her to go ahead. And now?

‘I had brilliant vision seeing things from afar within a couple of days, but I have to admit that it did take me longer than I thought it would for my eyesight to readjust to reading. But every day I open my eyes I marvel at a world of clarity without my spectacles. For me, this procedure is nothing short of a scientific miracle and my only regret is that I didn’t get it done sooner.’

Dr Melvin Gouder MD(Melit), MRCOphth(UK), MRCS Ed(Ophth), DiSSO.

Following his degree from Malta, he undertook his post graduate studies in England, Scotland, Switzerland and the USA in both the private and public sectors and specialises in the treatment of extreme long- and short-sightedness.

For a tiny number of people, laser surgery will not be appropriate, but this does not mean a life with glasses.

Patient Review Mark Bugeja

Refractive Lens Exchange

Mark had chronic sight issues all his life. In response to an advert for laser eye surgery, he made an appointment but was advised that lens replacement was a better long-term option to resolve his diagnosis. The expertise and experience of the staff he encountered in the hospital were highly reassuring and, as he says, ‘It was this confidence that made me go for it ……I went in actually looking forward to the op’. This procedure took 45 minutes – 15 minutes per eye with a 15-minute break.

And now?

‘It’s been about 6 weeks now since the procedure and I honestly feel great. Every night I still reach out to take off my specs! And smile thinking “that’s the past” ‘.

The Patient Testimonial Book on a random flick through has words such as: ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, ‘professional’ and ‘lifechanging’ on each client’s review, closely followed by Thank you! That tells you all you need to know.

St James Hospital eye Clinic

+356 2247 2630

Copyright: Temple Magazine 2017/18

Images Copyright: St James Hospital, Malta


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