At least 32 people have complained of complications, ranging from retinal pain to total loss of vision, after undergoing cataract surgeries at a free eye camp organised at the Washim District Hospital last month.
According to reports, at least 171 patients were operated upon at the eye camp. Of these, 32, including 18 who were operated upon on October 15, suffered serious eye inflammation. The two doctors who performed the surgeries, Sulekha Mendhe and Prakash Chavan, have since been suspended.
A preliminary probe has found negligence, as the standard operating procedure for sterilisation of instruments was reportedly not followed. The patients, all in the age group of 55 to 90 years, have been found to be suffering from pseudomonas (bacteria) infection.
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Dr Satish Pawar, Director, Health Services, said the instruments were sterilised “in a boiler at 100 degrees Celsius”, instead of the required procedure of autoclaving — sterilising instruments in a high pressure chamber at 121 degrees Celsius. “The gloves should have been changed for every patient, but this was not done,” said Dr Pawar.
Flouting guidelines, the Washim hospital officials did not inform the local authorities when the patients suffered complications, sending them to the Government Medical College in Akola instead.
“The Akola hospital has no retinal surgeon. They also did not report the incident,” said an investigating officer from the Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
“They (Akola GMC) should have referred patients to a tertiary centre which has retinal surgeons. Until our official reached there, patients were getting no proper treatment,” said Dr Sandhya Tayade, assistant director, DHS, who is heading the inquiry.
On October 30, the state health department was notified by the deputy director of health services who came to know about the complications during a routine check. Within four hours, 23 patients were shifted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai, two to Jalna Civil Hospital, one to Government Medical College, Nagpur, while six remained under observation at Akola GMC.
Dagdabai Vardule, 60, is among those at JJ Hospital. “Two days after the surgery, she began complaining of redness and pain in her left eye. She was kept at Akola hospital for 10 days, but her condition worsened,” said her son Mahadev Vardule.
Dr Ragini Parekh, head of ophthalmology department at JJ Hospital, said all the 23 patients are now stable.
“We conducted cornea transplants in three patients… A few patients were able to count fingers today, so we are hopeful of others getting their vision too,” said Parekh.
Meanwhile, samples of medicines, water, instruments and other material from the operation theatre have been taken to check the possible source of contamination.