Fifteen patients who underwent cataract surgery at a private hospital in Ambala cantonment last week have been hospitalised at PGIMER, Chandigarh, with eye infection, while a preliminary investigation by the Haryana health authorities has blamed unhygienic conditions for the botched operations.
A medical bulletin released by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) on Tuesday evening said that one of the 15 patients was feared to lose vision in the right eye, while the rest were responding well to treatment and were expected to recover in six weeks.
Fourteen patients were brought to PGIMER’s advanced eye care centre (AEC) on November 26 after they complained of irritation and blurred vision. One of them was admitted on November 27. Dr Jagat Ram, who heads the AEC, told reporters in Chandigarh: “All 15 were suffering from severe post-operative bacterial eye infection. They were put on intraviteral and topical antibiotics. Eleven patients were operated upon at PGI. One patient still has severe infection and chances of his recovery are slim.”
Unfit for surgery
The cataract removal operations were conducted by Dr Charanjit Singh at the Sarvkalyan Eye and Charitable Hospital in Ambala cantonment’s congested Mahesh Nagar locality on November 24.
Though the Ambala district administration did not receive a written complaint till Tuesday evening, the authorities sealed the private hospital after a team of doctors led by civil surgeon Dr VK Gupta inspected it. A large stock of eye drops, past their expiry date, was found. Dr Gupta said staff at the hospital had removed the surgical apparatus, linen and other material from the operating theatre before the team arrived. “Records pertaining to operations were missing. Patients were surely exposed to infection. We have taken samples of material available,” he said.
Ambala sub-divisional magistrate Shakti Singh told Hindustan Times that prima facie the hospital was unfit for performing surgeries. “The team found the hospital in a dingy location with deplorable sanitary conditions.”
The surgeries were performed as regular operations at a subsidised rate of Rs 6,000 per patient and not as part of an eye camp. The team, however, recovered pamphlets for eye care camps in Naraingarh, another area of Ambala district. Dr Gupta said since no permission had been granted to hold such a camp, the management would be questioned about the claims in the pamphlets.
The SDM said Dr Charanjit Singh, who used to perform eye surgeries at the private hospital during his visits every Tuesday and Thursday, had been told to submit his medical degree and other records. Dr Singh had also been asked to explain why he did not inform district health officials when the patients suffered infection last week.
Surgeon admits lapse
Dr Singh said the patients were probably infected from contaminated surgical equipment or solutions but refuted the charge that they could lose their sight. “It was not a medical camp but a routine OPD (out-patient department). I have been performing such surgeries for 15 years. This time, something went terribly wrong. I accepted my moral duty to admit my patients to PGIMER. I am bearing their medical expenses,” Dr Singh said.
The son of a 55-year-old Gama from Daleepgarh said, “Due to cataract, my father had poor vision. But after the operation, he complained of irritation in the eye and the doctor brought us to PGI. It’s been a week, but my father is still unable to see from the right eye.”
Shanti of Ratnaheri village said that she had gone to the charitable hospital for surgery as it cost Rs 6,000, while other hospitals charged up to Rs 25,000 for the operation. “Look at our fate now,” said the distraught woman, hoping her sight would be restored.
(Inputs by Tanbir Dhaliwal in Chandigarh)
No lessons learnt
March 11, 2015: Four elderly persons of the 18 operated at Navjeevan Eye Hospital in Panipat lost their sight. The victims were rushed to PGIMER, Chandigarh, on March 13. Private eye surgeon Ankur Gupta and Samalkha-based Samaj Sewa Samiti Sewarth Charitable Hospital booked for negligence.
November 4, 2014: Thirty-three of 153 operated at eye camp at Ghuman village in Gurdaspur lost sight due infection after cataract surgery. Doctor arrested on Nov 7 and case registered against hospital and Mathura-based NGO.