Boy’s eye glued shut during trip to Canadian medical clinic

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BLAINVILLE, Quebec — What a mother expected to be an easy trip to a private medical clinic to help her young son who cut his eye ended in a medical mishap.

Julia Vavatsikos' 3-year-old had his eye glued shut when he went to the clinic for a minor cut on his eyelid, she told CBC News.

The only doctor working at the clinic that day -- Canada Day, a national holiday -- decided a dab of medical glue was needed to treat the cut. Dr. Jean Therrien asked a co-worker to apply the adhesive while the doctor had the child, CBC News reports. But that colleague missed the mark.

"The doctor looked like he was panicking. He was trying to open my son's eye with water and his fingers and he was even swearing at that point," Vavatsikos said.

CBC News reports that co-worker was not a doctor, a nurse or even a medical student but instead was the clinic's receptionship -- a part-time employee who had no medical training.

"I got emotional, I got scared. I was angry," Vavatsikos told the news outlet. "I had many different feelings. I didn't know what to do."

Vavatsikos was told to take her toddler to the hospital right away. There, an ophthalmologist cut the boy's eyelashes and carefully pried open his eye.

The receptionist was allowed to apply the glue, the clinic's owner said, because the doctor was performing the "crucial medical act of holding the boy in place." The owner said the mishap occurred when the child suddenly moved.

But those explanations aren't enough for critics who say a booming industry of for-profit medical treatment is rife for mishaps like these.

"This being done by receptionist is absolutely unacceptable," said Dr. Saideh Khadir, who is not involved with the case or the clinic.

Khadir, an advocate with Canadian Doctors for Medicine, said the bigger issue in the province is the record number of private clinics where doctors can charge whatever they want. Such practices are not common in all Canadian provinces but when it is the case, Khadir said, cutting costs becomes a leading part of the equation because profit is involved.

"There is more risk," Khadir said. "You can decide to hire someone who is less qualified to try to cut edges short."

The clinic denies that is the case in this instance. An investigation is underway, led by the organization that regulates doctors in Quebec.

Vavatsikos was charged $150 for her son's visit, but the clinic refunded her the fee.

Her son's ophthalmologist is hopeful the boy won't have any long-term problems with his eye.