NEW DELHI (dpa) – At least 16 people were blinded after free cataract surgery in India’s northern state of Punjab, officials said Friday.
“We have 16 confirmed cases of patients from the camp who lost their eyesight, in one eye or both eyes,” Gurdaspur district commissioner Abhinav Trikha said by phone, adding that most victims were over 60. A total of 62 people signed up for the surgery conducted by a medical charity in a village in Gurdaspur district on November 4. When they removed their bandage three weeks after surgery, many said they could not see.
“Initial inquiries show it could have been either negligence on part of doctors or use of tainted medicines,” Trikha said. “The camp was organised without permission from the regional civil surgeon.”
Senior doctors told reporters that the surgery took place in “severely unhygienic conditions”.
The problem came to light when victims went to another hospital in the nearby city of Amritsar to complain. “They came to us three days back with severe eye infections,” doctor Karanjit Singh told broadcaster NDTV. “There is very little chance that their vision will be restored,” he said at a hospital where 11 people were admitted.
The number of those affected could rise, and victims had lodged a complaint against the charity involved, officials said.
“We didn’t have money so we went in for the free operations,” one villager told NDTV. “We want justice and action against the people concerned, our elderly have lost their vision.”
Last month in central India, 14 women died after a sterilisation procedure last month. Toxic substances including a compound used in rat poison were found in the medication they were given.