Irish women unhappy with plastic surgery were coerced into signing disclaimers by staff at a Turkish hospital, saying they would not post anything negative about the company on social media or blame personal injury cases on their experience.
he Irish Independent interviewed four mothers who traveled to Ekol hospitals in Izmir on package deals worth up to €7,000 after finding ads for the company on Facebook.
While many have posted positive reviews of Ekol, those who have subsequently struggled have criticized the company for asking them to sign disclaimers, being slow to respond to messages and, in some cases, using them for WhatsApp and social media to block.
One of the waivers signed by a patient said she had “no moral rights” after receiving a €500 refund.
Ekol registered as a company in Ireland last year and hosts roadshow events in four star hotels here.
Dozens of people attended their latest event at Dublin’s Gibson Hotel, where two plastic and bariatric surgeons offered two days of free medical consultations to potential patients.
Opera singer Celine Byrne has been appointed director of Ekol’s Irish office and has been promoting the company’s package deals on Facebook, including obesity surgery and ‘mommy makeover’ deals. She acts as a liaison between patients and Ekol, booking flights and helping arrange group travel.
There are also other company employees in Northern Ireland and the UK.
The women interviewed for this article wish to remain anonymous.
Catherine (not her real name), who was hospitalized with an infection on her return to Ireland, announced she was discharged to a hotel in Turkey for follow-up the day after her liposuction, tummy tuck, breast lift and breast augmentation.
Her itinerary called for her to be taken from the airport to the hospital at 10pm, undergo her procedures the next day and then stay in a hotel for the following four days before returning home.
The young mother traveled home a day earlier than planned as she wanted to return to her family as she found the experience “distressing”. The hospital disagreed and insisted that she have her final check-up, but signed a certificate of fitness to fly anyway.
She suffered an allergic reaction during her procedures and said when she woke up it felt like her “guts were on fire”.
“We were then transferred to a hotel. I had to fend for myself there. I couldn’t get off the bed, let alone do anything else. They came out of the hospital to check on us once a day,” she said.
“Due to the holidays, no pharmacy was open. I was going to meet again with my surgeon at the time but was told he was on vacation and this is information I believe should have been given to me beforehand.”
She was also given a liability waiver to sign prior to departure. It read: “I hereby declare and agree that Ekol Hospitals, Ekol Hospitals staff or my surgeon cannot be held responsible for any possible health risks that may arise as a result of this decision of mine. I also declare and agree that I will not post or share any negative comments about Ekol Hospitals, Ekol Hospitals staff, or my surgeon on social media or any other platform.”
Other women who have had tummy tucks and eye lifts have also had negative experiences.
They described how “trolley loads” of people were waiting to go into surgeries and they were operated on late at night.
Sarah (not her real name) had an eye lift and breast implants. She felt her eyes looked “droopy,” she has visible scars on her breasts, and the hospital has since offered revision surgery.
“I found them on Google,” she said.
“It was a package deal where you could bring someone with you. I had my eye and breasts done. I wanted someone with me for a few days and they organized everything. My husband came by and had his teeth done and was pleased.
“But I’ve been wearing sunglasses every day since then. I also have a half inch scar on my boobs.
“They offered to do revision surgery, but I’m afraid to go again. This situation almost cost me my marriage.”
Some people who contacted the hospital with a complaint have since received refunds.
Mary (not her real name), who came for a tummy tuck, also suffered an infection. She had significant swelling and was unhappy with how her stomach looked afterwards.
After raising concerns with the hospital, she was asked to sign a “commitment” stating there were no complications and her surgery was successfully completed.
The rest read: “Since I am personally dissatisfied with the operation, I will be paid €500 within three days of my application being approved. Due to the payment of €500 to me, I have no other material or moral rights and claims from both Ekol Hospitals and Prof [redacted].
“For this reason, I will not initiate any criminal or compensation proceedings, nor will I complain to any institution. I will not shoot any video, make any oral or written statements about the applications and posts to any media organ, or make any statement on any website or social media.”
It took six months to get a full refund.
“The whole situation was incredibly stressful for me and is something I never want to experience again,” she said.
Irish people are flocking to Turkey for bariatric and plastic surgeries, with medical tourism agencies reporting an increase of between 150 and 220 percent in the last year.
Long public health waiting lists and costs of up to €18,000 for weight loss procedures in private hospitals are driving people to seek treatment abroad.
Turkish companies like Ekol are promoting package deals on Facebook and Instagram, offering people stomach surgeries, teeth whitening, flights and accommodation for around €3,500.
The daily Sabaha pro-government Turkish newspaper, has reported how incentives from Ankara’s Ministry of Commerce are boosting the popularity of health tourism.
Some of the incentives outlined include that companies setting up a diagnostic center abroad will cover 60 percent of the rent.
“When it comes to bringing in patients from abroad, a grant of 50 percent per patient is provided, up to a maximum of $1,000.” That Daily Sabah Conditions.
On May 30, Ekol uploaded a video with Celine Byrne saying the company had opened a free medical advice center on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.
She said people could meet members of the Irish team, including her, who would enable video chats with surgeons in Turkey.
Another video posted to Ekol Hospitals’ Facebook account shows Irish patients dancing around the hospital to the Black Eyed Peas two days after their gastric sleeve surgery.
“Dublin private jet patient! Can you imagine that you could already dance? [sic] on the 2nd day after your operation? This is possible in Ekol hospitals,” the post reads.
The Irish Independent contacted Ekol with a series of questions about incentives, the disclaimers, patients being signed and patients being blocked from social media and messaging platform WhatsApp.
The hospital replied: “All our patients are presented with the required formal paperwork in relation to the medical service they are receiving and are asked to sign it in relation to our internal procedure. These are normal procedures seen in any private/government hospital.
“Our patients are closely monitored by their surgeons during their stay in our hospital and cannot be discharged from the hospital without their surgeon’s approval.
“Our surgeons decide whether or not a patient can be discharged after making the necessary assessments of the patient’s condition and, if necessary, performing the necessary tests to assess the presence of possible risks or complications.
“After our patients are discharged, our aftercare services take effect. Our patients are contacted regularly and our services continue even after they return to their country.
“According to statistics, the complication rates of cosmetic surgeries performed in Turkey are lower than the complication rates of cosmetic surgeries performed around the world.”
Ekol said it doesn’t get any financial incentive and prioritizes patient safety.
The hospital also said it does not block anyone on social media “as long as there is a reasonable justification”.
Celine Byrne declined to comment.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/no-moral-rights-unhappy-irish-clients-made-to-sign-gag-orders-after-cosmetic-surgery-ops-in-turkeys-ekol-hospital-42031437.html ‘No Moral Rights’ – Dissatisfied Irish clients are forced to sign gag orders after cosmetic surgery at Turkey’s Ekol Hospital