Lasik down for the count ... 
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 Lasik down for the count ...

There are parallels with cosmetology such as BriteSmile etc.


April 17, 2001
Bankruptcy Leaves Eye Patients in the Lurch

Kevin P. Couglin for The New York Times
This sign greeted patients who went to the Lasik Vision office in Garden
City, N.Y.

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ichael Jaffe called to reschedule his appointment at Lasik Vision in Garden
City, N.Y., a routine follow-up to the vision-correcting surgery he
underwent in January.
The recorded message still started with a cheery greeting, but went on to
say there was no one to pick up the phone: "Due to circumstances beyond our
control, we are unable to take your call or to see patients at the Garden
City office. This may be a permanent arrangement."
In the corporate world of laser eye surgery, some patients are now
experiencing a new complication: that the clinic suddenly goes out of
"It's unconscionable a corporate entity would do this," said Glenn Hagele,
executive director for the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance.
Many Lasik Vision patients have scrambled to look for new doctors, at
additional cost, Mr. Hagele said.
Selecting an eye surgeon is no longer just a matter of weighing the
surgeon's expertise and cost. "You may want to look at the current stock
price of that corporate entity," Mr. Hagele said.
Fortunately, Mr. Jaffee had saved the cell phone number of his surgeon, Dr.
Dan Z. Reinstein. Dr. Reinstein said that Lasik Vision had gone bankrupt and
that he was setting up alternative arrangements for his patients at his own
"Where they leave off, I pick up," said Dr. Reinstein, formerly the chief
medical officer of Lasik Vision. "I am very confused as to why things were
done in this way." Dr. Reinstein said that he would fulfill Lasik Vision's
obligations to the Garden City patients, but that he could not speak for
other Lasik Vision locations.
Mr. Jaffee said he was upset that he found out about the closing only by
chance. "I would have showed up and nobody would have been there," he said.
Other Lasik Vision clients awaiting refunds of $1,000 deposits now must file
claims with the bankruptcy court. Lasik Vision required the deposits before
initial evaluations with the promise that if someone did not qualify for the
procedure, the money would be returned.
A year ago, Lasik Vision, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, was a
fast-growing chain of clinics in Canada and the United States offering to
correct vision for $999 an eye, less than the $1,500 to $2,500 an eye
charged by eye surgeons in private practice. The cost included all follow-up
Lasik, short for laser in-situ keratomileusis, is a 15-minute procedure that
can correct near- and farsightedness through bursts of laser light that
reshape the cornea.
The first signs of trouble came last summer when Lasik Vision's chief
executive was ousted and revised financial statements revealed much larger
losses. Saddled with debt, the company merged with a competitor, Icon Laser
Eye Centers Inc. of Toronto, at the end of February. Then Lasik Vision's
surgeons, who worked as independent contractors, walked out. Many had not
been paid since December. Even when they returned, the pace of surgeries
remained a trickle at many locations.
On March 30, Icon informed employees of Lasik Vision that it could not meet
its payroll. On April 3, Icon placed Lasik Vision, now a subsidiary of Icon,
into bankruptcy.
Lasik Vision's demise does not mean that all low-cost chains are unstable,
said Dr. Chetan K. Mishra, publisher of The Clasik Report, a Web publication
that tracks the industry. Lasik Vision did not control its expenses, he
said. It built large centers in expensive locations. "They built palaces,"
he said. "That's really what killed them."
With the clinic closings, Lasik Vision surgeons say, Icon also locked them
out of the appointment scheduling system.
Lewis Hopkins of Hopewell, Va., chose Lasik Vision because of its prices and
had eye surgery March 23 at the company's clinic in Washington, a couple of
hours from his home. Just days after the bankruptcy, he drove back to the
clinic for a checkup, only to find the doors locked. The sign on the door
referred him to the bankruptcy trustee.
"I just got the surgery," he said, "and now they're out of business."
Dr. Jonathan Carr, a surgeon at the Washington clinic and former director of
medical operations for the Lasik Vision chain before the merger, described
the situation as frustrating. "That is something that we would have been
able to prevent if armed with the contact information," he said.
Mr. Hopkins was eventually able to contact Dr. Carr by e-mail and made a new
appointment for the checkup.
Icon says Lasik Vision patients can receive follow-up care at Icon centers
and has offered discounts to patients who paid deposits but were not yet
scheduled for the surgery. But in some locations, no Icon center is nearby.
The nearest Icon center to New York City is in Toronto.
Senior officials at Icon did not respond to requests for interviews.
Despite Lasik Vision's financial tumult, patient care did not suffer, Dr.
Carr and Dr. Reinstein said. At a meeting of the American Society of
Cataract and Refractive Surgery this month, Dr. Reinstein will present a
study summarizing the outcomes of 21,000 randomly selected procedures
performed at 15 Lasik Vision centers last year.
Among patients with mild nearsightedness, 95.5 percent ended up with 20/25
vision or better, Dr. Reinstein said, and only 1 in 1,000 procedures
resulted in complications that mildly diminished a patient's "best
corrected" vision - what can be seen with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Among patients with moderate nearsightedness, 89 percent ended up with 20/25
vision or better and the rate of vision-diminishing complications was 2 or 3
per 1,000, Dr. Reinstein said.
"We're very proud of ourselves from a medical standpoint," Dr. Reinstein
said. "I only wish my counterparts in business knew as much about business
as I do about Lasik."
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