The dome-shaped structure on the Amritsar-Sri Hargobindpur road is not a shrine but Guru Nanak Multispecialty Hospital where cataract procedures done in unhygienic conditions in an operating theatre meant for general surgeries blinded many poor elderly villagers.
The hospital had neither the equipment nor the permission from the district health authorities to hold an eye camp, yet it put 157 poor people under the knife between October 31 and November 4. The patients were from Tanda in Hoshiarpur district, Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Gagomahal in Amritsar, and from villages around Ghuman.
The blinding of some of them got the Gurdaspur district administration into action; and on Friday, the police arrested Jalandhar-based doctor Vivek Arora and camp coordinator Manjit Joshi of the Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) non-government organisation (NGO) SKM Netra Chikitsalya.
In the criminal case registered on the complaint of the district administration, the NGO has been added to the accused. Under standard conditions, a maximum of 25 eye operations can be performed in a single day in a specialised OT. Dr Arora and his team conducted 49 in seven hours inside the lone general-surgery OT, all without mandatory permission from the office of the Gurdaspur civil surgeon.
The NGO and the hospital had applied for the permit in early October but not received it. Hospital owner Baba Sukhdev Singh Bedi, a friend of Phagwara NRI (non-resident Indian) and NGO coordinator Manjit Joshi, had hired the services of the Jalandhar doctor for the camp.
The lone OT at the hospital did not even have the 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.
The hospital owner is yet to be charged with any offence.