Ghuman eye camp tragedy: Numbers swell, 40 traced, 20 admitted

  • Aseem Bassi, Hindustan Times, Amritsar
  • Updated: Dec 06, 2014 11:12 IST

As more elderly people blinded after surgeries during an eye camp last month at Gurdaspur’s Ghuman village continue to pour into Government Hospital here, the number is likely to go from 15 reported on Friday to 50.

For patients who have lost vision in one eye after these cataract operations, the local doctors have bad news. They say the chances of recovery are extreme low and the situation is “hopeless”. A non-government organisation (NGO) had organised the camp.

Experts from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have contacted the local doctors and asked for pictures of the infected eyes. “We are sending them the pictures and other required inputs. It is likely that an AIIMS team will visits the patients in Amritsar on Saturday evening,” said Dr Karamjit Singh, associate professor looking after the treatment. The Union health ministry has got in touch with him.

“Nearly 20 patients are admitted already to the local eye hospital. Besides, we know about 10 in a private hospital, six at the PGI (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh), and another three who came to the OPD (outpatient department) but didn’t return for follow-up,” said Dr Karamjit Singh, adding: “They all had severe infection and most had lost vision. There are chances of recovery in only four cases.”

On Thursday night, there were 11 patients from that camp in the local eye hospital; but since Friday morning, more have come in with complaints of lost vision after surgery. Replying to a query, the doctor said: “It seems surgeries were done without total equipment. These infections happens when the operating theatre or the equipment are not sterilised properly.”

Reports have been called in from the private hospitals the patients had approached.

New patients

Pritam Singh, 70, is one of the new patients, admitted to the hospital on Friday morning. He is from Gaggomahal village, where the damage is maximum. “The surgeries were done at night and we were sent home in the morning. Many from my village were there and now most have lost eyesight,” he said.

Another new patient is Sulakhan Singh, 50, who claims there might be 50 more people who had gone blind. “Many had the infection. We are in a big trouble and the government should help us,” he said. By his account, the patients were packed in a bus in November and sent to Ghuman’s Guru Nanak Hospital, where the surgeries were done.
Patients complained of pain and swelling, starting seven day days after the surgeries on November 4. “Before they reached us, a lot of time was lost,” said Dr Karamjit Singh.

A patient held the admission slip of SKM Netra Chikitsalya, Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), the NGO that is alleged to have held the camp along with others. “We’ll check what its exact role was but the Gurdaspur police have registered a case against it,” said deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat. The patients had tried many hospitals, some more than twice, before activists of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti brought them to Amritsar deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat a couple of days ago.

Search for more

At the hospital, the deputy commissioner said the administration had sent teams to Gaggomahal and the adjoining areas to find more patients. “We will provide them will treatment and the financial help (`1 lakh each) that the Punjab chief minister has announced,” said the DC.

The Gurdaspur administration has been asked to register cases against whoever organised this camp without permission. State medical education minister Anil Joshi also visited the hospital and assured the patients of help.

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