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A Durban anaesthetist, accused by a patient of overcharging him for an eye-operation in 2011, on Thursday appeared before a hearing of the Health Professions Council, held in uMhlanga, where he pleaded his innocence.

Dr Rajend Maharaj has been accused by patient Prath Ramtahal of failing to obtain informed financial consent and overcharging him on a corneal transplant at St Augustine’s Hospital.

Testifying at the hearing, Ramtahal said he was in “severe” pain when Maharaj gave him a form to sign for any “shortfall” on the operation.

While lying in a trolley bed, in a hospital passage waiting to be admitted to theatre, he said, he was approached by Maharaj, whom he had not met before.

“There comes Dr Maharaj… he comes to me and tells me Discovery (medical aid) will pay a certain amount, but he will invoice me for the balance. Out of stress, I signed. I didn’t know what I was signing for, but I signed for something,” he said.

The doctor did not explain his role in the procedure, and nor did he obtain his medical history, he said.

“He just told me he will give me the anaesthetic and I’d be knocked out in two seconds. He was more concerned about getting his extra charges paid,” he said.

Maharaj’s legal representative, Altus Janse van Rensburg, objected to this. He submitted copies of the consent form and the anaesthetic bill, signed by Ramtahal.

He disputed Ramtahal’s testimony that his medical history had not been obtained. If this was the case, he said, how would Maharaj have established the patient had another corneal graft 11 years earlier?

He also put it to him that Maharaj had known he had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft and had also questioned him about his angina and response to the medication.

Ramtahal admitting telling Maharaj he had a heart problem.

A week after the operation, he said, he was sent an invoice of R1 617.50. He said he was threatened with legal action if he did not pay the amount.

The hearing, which was at times a war of words between Van Rensburg and Ramtahal, was adjourned to Friday after Ramtahal insisted on an adjournment, as he had to see a doctor for his “heart condition”.

The Mercury