Unknown infection shuts Guru Nanak Eye Centre OT

40 samples have been examined, but experts unable to identify source of infection.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | Delhi | Published: September 11, 2014 1:47 am

The Delhi government’s 255-bed Guru Nanak Eye Centre is grappling to identify the source of an infection in its operation theatre (OT) that has affected about 10 patients since May. A committee has been formed by the health secretary to identify the source of the infection in the OT after sterilisation of equipment and surface areas failed to control the infection.

Hospital sources said 40 samples from the OT, tested at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), have so far failed to help identify the microbe causing the infection. Sources said towards the end of May, the OT had to be closed after eight patients contracted “severe” bacterial eye infection after surgery.

Hospital director Dr Basudeb Ghosh said, “Some patients contracted a severe bacterial infection after surgery. The OT services were immediately closed for over a month and our investigators tried to identify the infection source. In this time, we also sterilised the instruments and the inside of the OT. Then we opened for a week. We did some extra ocular cases, but a couple of patients contracted the infection again, so we have had to close our OT again.”

Dr Ghosh refused to comment on microbes identified in these patients, explaining that a multi-agency committee has been formed by the secretary, “which is investigating the matter”.

“We have microbiologists from MAMC, our teams, surgeons and PWD personnel who are undertaking renovation work, so it is a multi-pronged effort. It would not be right for me to divulge anything more at this point,” he said.

During June, after the hospital’s own team failed to identify its source, as per “standard infection control protocol”, all the surfaces of the OT, apparels of OT personnel and instruments were sterilised.

“Since the unit became functional only in 2009, it is a state-of-the-art OT — very new in comparison to other hospitals. Since the infection occurred despite this, we changed several frequently used equipment and sterilised the OT. We also undertook proper sanitation training of the staff and even changed some staff members,” a senior professor from the department of ophthalmology said.

He added that since eye surgery “is a very fine procedure of extreme precision” and due to the sensitive nature of the organ, severe infection can lead to loss of sight. “So we did not take any chances. A team of microbiologists were called who collected 40 samples from the OT, but could not isolate any microbes,”he said.

Sources said the team has now started collecting samples from outside — the hospital’s water source — last week. Sources said the committee has also suggested that the ongoing renovation work at the hospital’s OPD block and in the emergency ward — “in close proximity” of the OT — could be the culprit.

Many in the faculty say the Health department could have dealt with the matter more swiftly. “In case of an infection, samples from the water source and renovation site should have been collected and tested much earlier. Without testing these samples, the OT should not have been reopened at all,” a professor from the ophthalmology department of MAMC said.

The teaching hospital, affiliated to MAMC, is considered one of the premier eye hospitals in the city.

Health department sources said “no immediate decision” had been taken yet on compensation for patients who contracted the infection.

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