An optometrist who worked at two branches of Specsavers in Cork has been found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to inform his employers that he had not tested eyes for over 10 years, contrary to what was claimed in his CV.
The optometrist, Nagesh Puranik, was also found guilty of professional misconduct by a fitness-to-practise inquiry of CORU – the regulatory body of health and social care professionals – for reviewing images of the retina of clients when he had failed to inform his employers that he required training to assess such images.
In addition, the CORU fitness-to-practise committee found 35 allegations of poor professional performance against Mr Puranik were proven.
The allegations related to his treatment of over 30 clients while he worked at Specsavers branches in Mallow and Midleton between January 21st and February 8th, 2022.
Mr Puranik, an Indian national, joined Specsavers at the start of last year but resigned on February 16th, 2022, after less than a month in the job.
The committee’s chairperson, Geraldine Feeney, said the optometrist has submitted a CV to Ian and Ciara McCallum, the owners and directors of the two Specsavers branches, in which he claimed his previous job was in 2020.
However, Ms Feeney said Mr Puranik subsequently admitted, in February 2022, that he had not tested eyes in the preceding decade.
She claimed the failure to disclose his lack of relevant experience during the recruitment process compromised the health, safety and welfare of all clients he had seen.
Ms Feeney said such a failure constituted a breach of the professional code of optometrists to act in the best interest of clients.
The chairperson said the McCallums had taken appropriate steps to introduce the optometrist to their practice and to address any problems he might have, but they had been assured by Mr Puranik that he was happy and comfortable with everything.
Ms Feeney said the criticisms they had made of Mr Puranik were “measured, fair and reasoned.”
The committee found 11 allegations proven that the optometrist had failed to conduct adequate eye examinations.
In five cases, it found Mr Puranik had failed to detect or diagnose a clinical issue, while in four cases he had failed to refer a client for further appropriate treatment.
A five-day public inquiry held last year heard that concerns about Mr Puranik’s competence arose within a few days of him starting work with Specsavers because of the speed at which he was conducting eye tests.
It was claimed normal tests would last around 20 minutes but Mr Puranik was only taking 5-10 minutes on average to conduct the examinations.
There were also concerns that very few of the optometrist’s clients required new prescriptions, which was described as “extremely unusual.”
The inquiry heard the allegations related to 19 of 121 patients seen by Mr Puranik in Mallow and 12 of 28 patients seen by him in Midleton. It was also informed that all affected patients had been recalled for a re-examination by Specsavers.
In one case, the optometrist failed to identify macular holes in both the eyes of an elderly client in the Mallow outlet, which should have warranted immediate referral to hospital.
The inquiry heard there were several cases where Mr Puranik had not noticed significant differences in the intraocular pressure of a client’s eyes.
He also failed to identify keratoconus – a condition affecting the cornea which can lead to permanent loss of vision if untreated – in one client.
In another case, Mr Puranik failed to identify the presence of cylinders in a patient’s eye which can cause blurred vision.
Ms Feeney said eight allegations were proven concerning his failure to identify correct prescriptions, and he had failed to keep adequate records in 31 cases.
The committee also found eight allegations relating to the optometrist’s failure to recognise that images were not of sufficient diagnostic quality proven.
Ms Feeney said there had been a serious falling short by Mr Puranik of the standard of competence that could be reasonably expected of a qualified optometrist.
The committee gave both CORU and Mr Puranik time to make written submissions on the sanction that it should recommend.
Mr Puranik, who qualified as an optometrist in India in 2007, had rejected any suggestion that he posed a risk to the public and questioned how he could have had a long career without complaint if he was not competent.
Although he returned to India after resigning from his job in Specsavers, he has expressed hope of working in Ireland again.