World leading mesh surgeon accuses Scottish Government of delaying project to help injured women
A world leading surgeon who was meant to come to Scotland to treat women suffering after receiving transvaginal mesh implants has said his experience of working with the Scottish Government was “flavoured by delay and what appeared to be a war of attrition”.
Dr Dionysios Veronikis, a US-based expert in the removal of transvaginal mesh implants, had been expected to come to Scotland to operate on mesh-injured women but the project came to a halt after a breakdown in relations with the Scottish Government.
He criticised the approach the Scottish Government took to planning his visit, accusing former Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood of making “u-turns” and “shifting the goalposts” on him repeatedly, frustrating the project.
Veronikis appeared before Holyrood’s public petitions committee to discuss his work as a surgeon and the affair surrounding his planned work in Scotland.
He told MSPs that if it were not for the disorganisation surrounding his visit, he could have begun his work on treating mesh-injured women in Scotland from September 2019.
Veronikis withdrew himself from the project at an earlier stage but was convinced to persevere by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon personally.
In September he permanently withdrew his offer to come to Scotland and said he was “exasperated” by the process and his “goodwill has been abused”.
In his opening remarks, Veronikis said that on paper, everything was in place to make a success of the project.
He said: “I was assured that Scotland's medical community wished to work together with me to make this project happen.
“Team Scotland was backed by the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary of Health, the Chief Medical Officer, the assigned lead mesh removal surgeons and all the influence of these officers in power.
“Yet here we are today.”
Veronikis said that over the course of the 18-months he was in contact with the Scottish Government team organising his visit, that it became clear to him that there was a “great willingness to delay any real progress in this project”.
He said that Calderwood had “assured” him in early meetings that she would provide the necessary sponsorships, letters and employment contracts to enable him to perform surgery in Scotland.
This is what led him to agree “in principle” to an initial visit to Scotland in spring 2020 to plan surgeries for a later date, he said.
Veronikis insisted that there was never any agreement that he would visit Scotland before the General Medical Council (GMC) had completed its regulatory process allowing him to practice.
However, he accused Calderwood of having “shifted the goalposts” immediately after she returned from meeting with him at his practice in St. Louis in the US state of Missouri.
Calderwood asked him to fly to Scotland in early 2020 to attend an event where he should lobby attendees of the event for sponsorship of his application to the GMC.
Veronikis said that he interpreted this “u-turn” as the Scottish Government team declining to endorse his application.
He added that Calderwood repeatedly “glossed over” his concerns at that time.
He said: “In short, team Scotland medical members would not be endorsing the GMC application.
“I clearly communicated to the CMO that under no circumstance would I fly to Scotland without the completion of the GMC application.”
He told MSPs that he had made it clear to Calderwood “in no uncertain terms” that he would not canvass anyone for sponsorship.
He said: “Even if CMO Calderwood had delivered her promise, the purpose of the visit in Spring 2020 had not been to commence any care of surgical treatment for the mesh injured woman.”
He added: “In conclusion, my involvement in this project is flavoured by delay and what appeared to be a war of attrition.
“Whatever the motivations, the outcome demonstrated to me that there was no sense of urgency in delivering the project to help the mesh injured women.”