NGO organised free cataract operations; probe initiated

18 lose vision after botched surgeries at Batala eye camp
Patients who lost their sight at a Batala eye camp are being treated at an Amritsar hospital. photos: vishal kumar

Infected instruments?

  • Doctors say the patients suffered from endophthalmitis, a rare but serious post-operative complication of cataract surgery
  • The infection occurs when non-sterilised instruments are used

A doctor treats a patient at a hospital in Amritsar.A doctor treats a patient at a hospital in Amritsar.GS Paul & PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, December 4
At least 18 persons, a majority of them women, lost their vision after undergoing cataract surgery during a free eye camp at Ghuman village, 25 km from Batala, in Gurdaspur district on November 4.
Fifteen of them belong to Amritsar district while the rest are from Gurdaspur.
The camp was organised by a Gurdaspur-based NGO — Guru Nanak International Sewa Mission — and a team of doctors from Mathura was hired to conduct the operations.
As many as 11 patients from Gagomahal and adjoining villages in Ajnala tehsil who lost their vision are undergoing treatment at ENT Hospital under the Government Medical College, Amritsar.
The incident came to light when the patients approached the local administration complaining about the loss of vision in one eye. Deputy Commissioner Ravi Bhagat got them admitted to the local ENT Hospital.
Bhagat said 15 persons approached them initially and were admitted to the hospital. Currently, 11 patients, including seven women, were undergoing treatment there.
He said inquest proceedings had been initiated and appropriate action would be taken against the accused.

The doctors treating the victims said it was a case of endophthalmitis — a rare but serious post-operative complication of cataract surgery — and chances of restoration of vision were bleak.
State Health Minister Surit Jyani could not be reached for comments, but his personal assistant said no permission was sought by the NGO to conduct the camp. He said an inquiry would be conducted into the incident.
Gurdaspur Civil Surgeon Dr Rajnish Sood said a Senior Medical Officer and two specialists had been asked to look into the matter.
He said 60 persons were brought to the Ghuman hospital about a week ago. Out of them, 15 were shifted to an Amritsar hospital. He said the government had not given permission to hold the camp. “This is a serious matter and will be reported to the state health department,” said a senior health department officer. He said a criminal case would be registered against the offenders.
The 11 victims receiving treatment at Amritsar’s ENT Hospital are: Surinder Kaur, Sampurn Kaur, Chhinder Kaur and Joginder Singh (all from Gagomahal village); Puro, Bhagwanti, Gurbachan Singh and Dalip Singh (all from Bedi Chhinna); Gurdeep Kaur (Gillawal village); Joginder Singh (Langomahal) and Piar Kaur (Daidiyawal).
Dr Apoorva Bhardwaj and Dr Ankur Bhatnagar, doctors at the hospital, said a post-operative infection led to the loss of vision. “The infection occurred because of the use of non-sterilised instruments. The eye that was operated upon has been damaged. The victims could not realise they had lost their vision. They came for treatment a month after the surgery,” said Dr Bhardwaj.
Bagicha Singh, son of Surinder Kaur who lost vision in one eye, said his mother felt pain and loss of vision a few days after the operation. “We administered the eye drops prescribed by the doctors who had operated upon her. But she kept complaining of itching and loss of vision,” he said.