By William J. Furney
A growing number of people have come forward to Furney Times with accounts of being fleeced of large sums of money for basic medical services in southern areas of Gran Canaria where an Indian doctor operates several clinics.
It follows the publication in August 2021 of an article on this website titled The Conning Coronavirus Doctor that detailed this reporter’s encounter with Dr Deepa Serai at her clinic in the tourist hotspot of Playa del Ingles and the medic’s deception and attempts to justify overcharging for a PCR test during the covid pandemic.
Today, the pandemic is over and no one needs a PRC test, yet the clinic, in the heart of the hectic tourist area, still has several “PCR Test” advertisements festooned around the parafarmacia in which it operates. Parafarmacias are common in Spain and resemble a pharmacy but they can only sell herbal products, not medicines.
Seeking Medical Treatment
Tine Holm was on holiday in Puerto Rico, a tourist town on the southwest coast of Gran Canaria, in March last year when she began to feel ill. A fever developed, she was weak and she could not stop coughing. Suspecting she had covid — she has not been vaccinated, and a self-test was negative — Holm went to the nearest medical centre, Clinic Diamond International, to find out what she was sick with, and that’s how the Norwegian journalist met Dr Serai.
“She said I had bacterial bronchitis and that everyone but her would send me to hospital,” Holm told me. “She said she was a popular doctor with Norwegian tourists and that she had good contacts with insurance companies — actually she is blacklisted.”
Dr Serai did several tests that Holm did not request and printed a fake covid certificate for her, which she also didn’t want, said Holm. The doctor then put her on an intravenous drip containing an antibiotic, and gave her an asthma nebuliser to inhale, even though she does not have asthma. “She just pushed it on me and said it would help to get rid of the bronchitis and the strong cough,” a puzzled Holm said.
Dr Serai charged Holm €2,000 for the treatment and told her she would need to come back for several days so she could monitor her progress and give her more medication. She was certain Holm’s insurance company would reimburse her for the costs, said Holm. “She said she was in contact with someone she knew at my insurance company and that I didn’t have to worry about anything,” she said. “They later told me that she is a criminal and is blacklisted.”
Holm returned to Dr Serai’s clinic three more times and in total paid the doctor around €7,000. Her insurance company refused to cover the costs, and Holm’s attempts to at least get some of her money back from Dr Serai failed. “She was aggressive and went crazy” when she spoke to the doctor on the phone, said Holm.
‘Robbed’ for a Prescription
Another person who contacted Furney Times about Dr Serai was a woman from Iceland who, for privacy reasons, will be referred to by her initials, EF. She was on a recent holiday, in Playa del Ingles, and went to Dr Serai to get a prescription for regular medication she takes.
The doctor gave her the prescription and charged €990 to her Visa card, EF said, not realising until later just how much she had paid.
“I needed medicine that I use and she gave me a prescription. But it doesn’t cost that much — she robbed me,” said EF. “I’m having a lawyer in Iceland look into this, to see if something can be done. It may be difficult, but people like this (Dr Serai) need to be stopped.”
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An Englishwoman, referred to here as “Abs”, to protect her identity, had been working on a TV production in Gran Canaria in October 2021 and was spending a few days’ holiday with her fiancée, who had flown out to meet her, after shooting wrapped. Both women needed PCR tests to return to the UK and after a search, they found Dr Serai’s clinic in Playa del Ingles.
“I had alarm bells as soon as we met her in person,” EF told me. “I wish I’d just turned around and said no, but, you know, you don’t want to be rude in those situations, and given my background as a TV producer, you can read people like a book.
“For once in my lifetime, I wanted to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and unfortunately I did that with her.”
EF described the doctor’s clinic as run down and that it was “very dodgy from the off”. Dr Serai took both women’s passport details, did the tests and then demanded cash for payment and would not accept cards.
She said, ” ‘I need cash. There’s a cash machine right outside. One of you get cash, the other one stay here.’ That’s just weird.”
EF said: “She ended up charging us more than what we thought and it wasn’t legit — she wanted more money for emailing the test results. She literally just used a lateral flow test (not PCR).
“I googled her and found your article. I wanted a receipt for work purposes, but she wouldn’t give me one. It’s a con. She ended up blocking me on WhatsApp.”
At the Doctor’s Clinic, A Confrontation
It is mid-afternoon on April 3 and an anxious Tine Holm and I are on our way to Dr Serai’s clinic in Playa del Ingles. We want to ask her about the rising level of complaints about her practice and why she refuses to discuss them with her patients.
By now, Holm has hired a lawyer, in the Gran Canaria capital, Las Palmas, and he has written to her asking that she reimburse his client. There has, however, been no response.
We enter the parapharmacy where Dr Deepa has a small room at the back, and encounter a man who says she is not there but will be back briefly later this afternoon.
“What is it about?” he asks.
“A consultation,” I say.
He demands to know more details but I repeat that we wish to speak to the doctor about a consultation. Surprisingly, he calls her on his mobile phone and hands it to me.
I tell the doctor who I am and it seems she doesn’t recall me from nearly two years ago. I tell her I am with Tine Holm, who wishes to speak to her about what happened. Will she talk to her, I ask? Yes, she replies.
I give the phone to Holm, and seconds later the two are engaged in a heated discussion. Holm asks her if she has received her lawyer’s letter and the doctor says no and refuses to discuss the matter. “I don’t know how you sleep at night!” Holm, trembling, shouts into the phone before handing it back to me.
I return the phone to the husband, and he roars at us to stop taking photographs and leave, or he will call the police — prompting further outrage from Holm. We refuse to leave and the man, also Indian-origin, bursts into a fury, shouting at us, issuing threats and pointing at a security camera beside him while recording a video of Holm and giving a running commentary of what he’s planning to do.
Two men enter the premises, looking for something, but the husband keeps up his thundering tirade, and they look at me in puzzlement. I leave, with a visibly shaken Holm.
She hasn’t, she told me, reported Dr Serai to the local police, because she doesn’t speak sufficient Spanish and she is certain they would do nothing anyway.
“The whole thing has been very disturbing and has left me distraught,” she said.
- Title photograph is of William J. Furney and Tine Holm, at Dr Deepa’s clinic in Playa del Ingles. (Photograph: Tine Holm)