By William J. Furney
An English nurse practitioner holidaying with her family on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria was shocked that the local doctor she took her son to for earache treatment did not appear to know what she was doing, allegedly made her child ill and then landed her with a bill for almost €800.
Zoe Cox, from Brompton-on-Swale in North Yorkshire, was staying with her husband, Stephen, and three children in the southwestern tourist town of Puerto Rico in mid-August when her 15-year-old son, Alex, complained of ear pain. She took him to the nearest medical centre, Clinic Diamond International, where Dr Deepa Serai examined the boy.
Thinking the doctor would prescribe antibiotic ear drops, Mrs Cox said she was alarmed when Dr Serai instead gave her son three intramuscular injections, in his buttocks. “I was immediately concerned,” Mrs Cox told Furney Times.
Dr Serai then set about administering various types of treatment to Alex that his mother thought were unnecessary, including using a nebuliser — a mask connected to a machine that delivers mist containing medicines and is primarily for respiratory infections. That made him feel ill, Mrs Cox said. Dr Serai offered to do a PCR test, even though the covid pandemic is over and such tests are no longer required for travel.
“He certainly was not unwell when he went in to see her, and didn’t have a temperature. I just feel so upset and still I’m trying to comprehend how she could do this to my son. It’s so upsetting.”
Dr Serai said Alex had a perforated eardrum and that was the reason she would not give him ear drops. “Then she said she said she could’ve stopped him from flying, but if he had intense treatment, by seeing him everyday, she would make sure he would be able to fly. She said this was a very nasty ear infection,” said Mrs Cox, who was already thinking of going elsewhere.
A ‘Shocking’ Bill
Dr Serai charged Mrs Cox €795 for the first visit and said Alex would need to return for further treatment over the course of several days — a tactic of hers that former patients have described to Furney Times and that only led to substantially higher bills, sometimes in the thousands. The doctor told Mrs Cox, who said she was “shocked at the amount” and paid by credit card, that she could claim the hefty sum back on her medical insurance, but the family had not taken out any before travelling to the Canary Islands.
Dr Serai advised Mrs Cox that she could apply for travel insurance, including medical cover, right there and then, despite Mrs Cox telling her it would be fraudulent to make an application for cover during or after a medical event as most policies require customers to not have pre-existing medical conditions and to take out cover prior to travelling.
When Mrs Cox pointed this out to the medic, Dr Serai urged her to try applying for insurance anyway, in a series of WhatsApp messages.
“It was only when I went to another clinic the next day, to get different advice, that I became aware of this scamming doctor,” said Mrs Cox. The clinic diagnosed her son with a minor ear infection and no perforated eardrum, prescribed antibiotic ear drops and charged her €75. A day later, said Mrs Cox, Alex’s earache was gone.
A ‘Fake’ Medical Report
Dr Serai’s medical report, seen by Furney Times, is detailed and includes a diagnosis of “acute sinusitis,” which Alex did not have, according to his mother and the diagnosis from the second clinic. Listing her treatment in the report, Dr Serai said she gave “oral antibiotics and ear drops”, which Mrs Cox said was not true.
“I asked her for a prescription for antibiotic ear drops but she refused,” she said. “I can’t believe she is allowed to practice.” Mrs Cox and her husband reported their “distressing experience” to the local police and also to the British Embassy in Madrid as well as the British Consulate in the Gran Canaria capital, Las Palmas.
“She is working unethically and must be stopped,” Mrs Cox said of Dr Serai. “If this happened in Britain, she would be struck off straight away. I am not going to stop until something is done.”
Attempts to reach Dr Serai for comment were unsuccessful.
Since Furney Times revealed the questionable practices of Dr Serai in August 2021 and at another clinic she runs, in Playa del Ingles, a 20-minute drive from Puerto Rico, many people have contacted this website with accounts of being ripped off by the medic.
Dr Serai is registered as a doctor with a medical body in the Gran Canaria capital, Las Palmas, the Official College of Doctors, according to research carried out by Furney Times, which obtained a notification of her registration.
One woman, Norwegian Tine Holm, claims she is out of pocket to the tune of €7,000 after receiving treatment from Dr Serai at her Puerto Rico practice.
Another woman, from Iceland, says Dr Serai charged her almost €1,000 for a prescription for medication she had run out of while on holiday in Gran Canaria, one of seven Spanish islands off the northwest coast of Africa that comprise the Canary Islands, all of whom are heavily dependant on tourism.
- Title image shows Zoe Cox and her family departing Gran Canaria on August 22, 2023.