Twenty-three people were blinded from severe infection after undergoing cataract surgeries at a camp in Ghuman village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. They were among 62 people, almost all over 65 years, who got their cataracts removed at a charitable camp on November 4.
The use of contaminated equipment is suspected to be the cause, which once again bring focus on medical negligence and poor infection control.
Globally, and in India, cataract is the leading cause of blindness. According to the World Health Organisation, cataract is the leading cause of blindness (62.6%).
In Punjab, a criminal investigation was filed against the surgeons and the NGO Guru Nanak Foundation for setting up the camp without permission from the district administration.
Under the National Programme to Control Blindness, camps can be set up by NGOs only in partnership with District Blindness Control Society with compulsory consent from the district commissioner and the chief medical officer. In Punjab, the district authorities were not informed.
“Even in cases of infection, injecting antibiotics in the eye’s vitreous cavity located behind the lens and in front of the retina is all that’s needed to control it,” said an expert on cataract, Dr Jeevan S Titliyal.
Meanwhile in Amritsar, as patients continued to pour in the eye ward of the local government hospital, the figure of the elderly patients blinded is likely to touch around the 50 mark.
Seeking answers about the incident, the National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to Punjab government.
The Commission, on its own accord, has asked the chief secretary, secretary, health, government of Punjab and district magistrate, Gurdaspur to provide reports on the issue within the fortnight.
On Friday, a doctor who allegedly performed the botched cataract surgeries was arrested, and a case was registered against a private hospital and the NGO. Camp organiser Manjit Singh has been detained in connection with the case, the police said.
(With inputs from HTC, Amritsar)