A suspected fungal infection shut the Delhi government’s Guru Nanak Eye Centre for at least four days.
Surgeries have resumed at the hospital after all the beds in the operation theatre, the water supply system and ventilation ducts were fumigated. Last year, from May to December, the operation theatre in the Delhi government’s only specialised eye hospital had to be closed at least thrice over recurring infections in patients who were operated.
Sources told The Indian Express that after a surgery patient developed severe infection last week, the operation theatre was inspected, closed and fumigated. At least for four days, all scheduled surgeries were put off. The patient who contracted the eye infection is still being treated at the hospital, sources said.
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While hospital director Dr B Ghosh did not respond to repeated calls and messages, parlimentary secretary (health) in the Delhi government, Rajesh Gupta, confirmed that the infection in the OT appeared to be fungal.
“The OT was inspected and remnants of what appeared to be a fungal infection were detected. That is why, the OT had to be closed and fumigated, but now surgeries have resumed in the operation theatre,” he said.
Fumigation is a process to disinfect or sterilise the operation theatre surfaces and instruments to rid them of any infection.
Sources said the operation theatre witnesses between 10,000 and 12,000 surgeries annually over 10-12 beds. “In such an environment, infection control is a constant problem despite our best efforts because there are so many patients coming in. While no OT can be zero-infection, last year no significant bacterial counts were identified in the air ducts or OT surfaces, but now with this fungal infection resurfacing, we may have to reinvestigate to see if there is any recurring source. For now, the OT has been sterilised,” an official said.
In August last year, in a study published in the medical journal The Indian Practitioner, three microbiologists, including one each from GB Pant and RML hospitals and one from Guru Nanak Eye Centre, who reviewed the infection-control procedure at the hospital for a year, found bacteria, including Coagulase Negative Staphylococcus, S. aureus and Aerobic spore bearers “the whole year round” in the operation theatre.
The doctors noted in their study that in February, fungus “especially aspergillus was isolated”. The doctors noted that the operation theatre was conducting close to 10,000 surgeries and recommended that in ophthalmic operation theaters “there should be a decrease in the number of surgeries to be carried out as the patients themselves contributed to the increased air-borne bacterial count”.