Chatham eye doctor failed to diagnose glaucoma in man who is now legally blind, regulator finds

·4 min read
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has suspended the licence of Dr. Chris Anjema for four months. (Matthew Pierce / CBC - image credit)
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has suspended the licence of Dr. Chris Anjema for four months. (Matthew Pierce / CBC - image credit)

A legally blind man who is a former patient of a soon-to-be-suspended Chatham ophthalmologist says he's frustrated he wasn't able to have his say at the doctor's disciplinary hearing.

Disciplinary proceedings against Dr. Chris Anjema at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) wrapped up this week with a resolution settlement and a four-month suspension. The resolution meant witnesses, originally set to appear, were not necessary.

"I did have a debriefing Tuesday after their meeting, and I did not mince any words," the man said. "They know exactly how I feel. I told them they were a joke, that I was exceptionally upset that my voice was stolen from me. I did not have an opportunity to even represent myself as a witness."

CBC News isn't naming the Dresden, Ont., man — who is referred to as Patient A in the college's decision — because his identity is protected by a publication ban.

Anjema, 52, is the medical director at the Anjema Eye Institute in Chatham.

According to a college document containing an agreed statement of facts, uncontested facts and plea, the man received cataract surgery from Anjema, but the doctor didn't address elevated intraocular pressure. The man's vision worsened, and he's now legally blind.

In a recent Facebook post, Anjema acknowledged the sanctions.

"I'm sorry to say that they have found that I did not always meet College standards during the period they studied through 2011-2016. So, I'm being disciplined accordingly. I accept what has happened and I am accountable for the outcome," he wrote.

'Disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct'

Among the sanctions against Anjema in the March 22 decision is a license suspension for four months.

Dr. Chris Anjema is shown in an image from the website of the Anjema Eye Institute
Dr. Chris Anjema is shown in an image from the website of the Anjema Eye Institute(Anjema Eye Institute)

"Dr. Anjema admits that he failed to maintain the standard of practice of the profession in his care of patients and does not contest that he engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct in his submission of claims and billing to OHIP and to patients, as well as communication with Patient A," the college's discipline committee said.

The suspension is set to begin July 1.

For Patient A, the punishment amounts to "a joke."

"The whole thing was three-and-a-half years of wasted time, and at the tail end of it, he gets a summer off."

Patient A said while Anjema could be watching his kids or grandchildren play this summer "for the rest of my life, I am never going to see my grandkids again."

LISTEN: Patient A joins Windsor Morning

In October 2017, Patient A complained about Anjema to the college, which regulates the practise of medicine in Ontario.

An ophthalmologist who was retained to review the case found Anjema failed to recognize, diagnose and arrange treatment for the patient's glaucoma.

"Dr. Anjema missed opportunities over the years to make the diagnosis over several visits, despite clear evidence in the available diagnostic tests of severe and progressive glaucoma-induced vision loss. Failing to diagnose glaucoma can result in avoidable and irreversible blindness," the document states.

Complaint about upselling, billing practices

Patient A's complaint also involved his cataract surgery. Based on communication with staff of the Anjema Eye Institute, Patient A was under the impression he paid for an upgraded lens to be implanted during surgery, but later learned he received the regular OHIP-covered lens. The $595 "silver level" package he bought only included testing, according to Anjema.

Patient A also understood through his communications with staff that the upgraded lens package would allow him to avoid a long wait for surgery, which was a deciding factor in his purchase, the statement of facts says.

The document states that Anjema "does not admit but does not contest" allegations related to the cataract surgery.

Patient A's case was not the only matter at issue during the disciplinary proceedings. The committee also looked at allegations involving billing practices, the keeping of medical records and his use of testing procedures. Anjema pleaded no contest to some allegations and admitted others.

Doctor addresses findings

CBC News requested an interview with Anjema through his lawyer. Lawyer Neil J. Perrier said Anjema reacted to the CPSO decision in the recent Facebook post. The lawyer said he had nothing further to add.

"I've always tried to be the best doctor I can be no matter what," Anjema wrote in the lengthy post from Mar. 22. "I understand the important work of the College in striving to protect the public and to maintain the integrity of the medical profession."

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The post says his licence to practise is being suspended from July to November.

"In the meantime, we are scheduling as many appointments as possible – including more than 600 cataract surgeries before then – to minimize any potential inconvenience for our patients," he wrote.

Asked to clarify to what extent Anjema accepts responsibility for the outcome in Patient A's case, Perrier said "it would be inappropriate for him to make any comments in relation to patient care and outcome" due to confidentiality.

Separately, Patient A launched a civil suit against Anjema in 2019, which is pending.