Gurdaspur eye camp tragedy: Blind toll rises to 23; doctor arrested

  • Vishal Sally, Hindustan Times, Gurdaspur
  • Updated: Dec 06, 2014 00:03 IST

The number of patients who went totally or partially blind in the Gurdaspur eye camp tragedy has risen to 23, even as the district police on Friday arrested Jalandhar-based doctor Vivek Arora and camp coordinator Manjit Joshi.

Besides the duo, the police booked SKM Netra Chikitsalya, the Mathura (Uttar Pradesh)-based non-government organisation (NGO) that had conducted the camp from October 31 to November 4.

Dr Arora had performed as many as 157 cataract surgeries on poor, elderly patients hailing from Tanda in Hoshiarpur district, Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Gaggomahal in Amritsar, and villages around Ghuman in Gurdaspur’s Batala subdivision.

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Twenty of the victims are undergoing treatment at the eye hospital of Government Medical College, Amritsar. Deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat said the toll could reach 35.

Meanwhile, it has come to light that the surgeries were performed at Guru Nanak Multi-specialty Hospital here in unhygienic conditions in an operating theatre (OT) meant for general surgeries. What’s worse, the hospital did not have permission from the district health authorities to hold the eye camp since it lacked an eye operating theatre.

On the basis of reports from its officials, the Punjab health department will take action against Dr Arora, Joshi, office-bearers of the NGO, and the Ghuman hospital administration, said principal secretary, health, Vini Mahajan.

The patients have now been admitted in Dr Ram Lal Eye and ENT Hospital at Majitha Road in Amritsar. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)

Batala senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manminder Singh said a case under sections 269 (negligent act to spread infection dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection), 326-A (voluntarily causing hurt by acid etc), 336 (act endangering life and safety of people), 337 (causing hurt by endangering life and safety), and 338 (causing grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) had been registered against Dr Arora, Joshi and others. However, the hospital owner, Sukhdev Singh Bedi, is yet to be booked.

Under standard conditions, a maximum of 25 eye operations can be performed in a day in a specialised OT. Dr Arora and his team conducted 49 in seven hours in the lone general-surgery OT, all without mandatory permission from the office of the Gurdaspur civil surgeon.

The lone OT also did not even have requisite lighting for eye surgeries. “A specialised OT and hygienic conditions to avoid post-operative infection are a must for eye surgeries. The hospital had neither,” said health services department eye specialist Dr Rakesh Gupta, who was at Ghuman.

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