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Lack of hygiene, "doubtful" quality of medicines behind 66 Madhya Pradesh patients losing eyesight

By Our Representative
A civil society investigation has blamed organizers of the eye surgery camp of criminal negligence, leading to the gruesome incident leading last month to the loss of eyesight of 66 patients belonging to Barwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh. The investigation team consisted of Rakesh Chandore, Dhara, Amulya Nidhi, and SR Azad of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan; and Medha Patkar, Devisingh Tomar, Bhagirath Dhangar, and Rahul Yadav of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The cataract surgery camp was jointly organized by Barwani District Hospital and Lion’s Club, Barwani, between November 16 and 24. It was held under the District Blindness Control Programme, which is part of National Blindness Control Programme.
In all 86 patients from Sendhwa, Silawad, Dhanora, Warla, Chachria, Balwadi, Pansemal, Niwali, Piplaj, Ekkalwara, Kashta, and Dharamrai of Barwani and Dhar districta of Madhya Pradesh were operated upon at the camp.
Doubting the source of medicine, a report prepared by the team said, “Ringer’s lactate solution was used during surgeries, which is usually packaged in plastic bottles and have probability to catch fungus.”
“The patients were prescribed Moxicip Eye Drop (Moxifloxacin), batch number C850127 of Cipla, Zoxan D of FDC Ltd, Atropine Sulphate of Jawa Pharmacy, Biotin, Levofloxacin and Ibuprofen at discharge”, the report said, pointing out that there is no clear answer as to from where “these medicines were sourced from – centrally from Bhopal or locally at Barwani.”
“The government investigation team has not disclosed batch numbers, quality test reports, company names, and procurement detail of drugs, injections and fluids used”, the report said.
Pointing towards negligence, the report said, on the second and third day of the surgery itself, the patients began approaching rural healthcare centres with complaints of burning sensation and pain in the eyes. Some reached the District Hospital, while a few others went to private hospitals. Though they were given some medicines, they got “no relief.”
“On November 18-19, similar multiple complaints of pain, itching and watering eyes started pouring in; despite that, surgeries of new patients continued”, the report said, underlining, “It is beyond comprehension why fresh surgeries were continued even after knowing that things were amiss and earlier patients had caught severe infections.”
When the complaints became acute and widespread, most patients were asked to reach the District Hospital, which – finding things getting complicated – referred to them to Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Science (SAIMS), Indore.
Objecting to this, the report said, this was done despite the fact that, under government rules, in case of emergency, patients should be referred from the District Hospital to the Maharja Yashwant Rao Hospital, Indore, attached with the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Indore, which has enough specialists.
“What is unclear is on what basis and on whose orders were they sent to SAIMS”, the report said, adding, “It is mentionable that SAIMS has been in the mid of controversy earlier. Around three years back, the state government had attempted privatization and wanted to shift the MYH Hospital to SAIMS under a public-private partnership (PPP) model in the guise of knowledge partnership.”
“At the time of referral to Indore, only few patients had already lost their eyesight”, the report said, adding, “After getting admitted to SAIMS, patients underwent repeated eye surgeries. Of 86 patients, 66 patients lost sight of one eye completely”, the report underlined.
The report noted, “Hygiene of operation theatre was compromised. It needs to be enquired whether separate sets of gloves, instruments and materials were used for each patient.”

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