Patna: More than one and a half months after botched up cataract surgeries in a private hospital in Bihar's Muzaffarpur led to 16 people, most of them poorest of poor and elderly, losing their vision following severe infections, victims are yet to get compensation announced by the state government.
Prema Devi, Gopi Devi, Jamila Khatoon, Bharat Paswan and Rammurti Singh, five of sixteen whose eyes had to be removed in early December following alleged negligence after cataract surgery, have been waiting for compensation. Upset over the government's apathy, victims staged a protest last week demanding compensation.
Prema Devi said they had undergone cataract surgery in the hope of improving their blurred vision. Instead, they lost vision after contracting a severe infection following the surgery.
Last month, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced compensation to all those who lost their vision. But victims are yet to receive any compensation.
"The government is to provide any compensation despite promises. I have lost vision after one of my eyes was removed. How do I manage my family of six people? I am the only bread earner," said Paswan, who works as a labourer.
Similarly, Singh said after he lost vision, it has been challenging for him to earn a livelihood.
"Before my eye was removed due to infection after cataract surgery, I was able to do my work. Now, I have poor vision in one eye and total loss in another. It has ruined my life," said Singh.
Muzaffarpur based social activist Chandra Kishore Parashar has filed a complaint in connection with non-payment of compensation in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate earlier this week against Kumar, Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey, state chief secretary, additional chief secretary (health), director-in-chief (health services), district magistrate and civil surgeon. The CJM court in Muzaffarpur will hear the complaint case on January 18.
"Victims of botched up cataract surgeries have been left helpless, running from one place to another and protesting for compensation that the government announced. The district administration has been downplaying the delay without any assurance to them," said Parashar.
According to Parashar, after hearing a PIL filed by him and two others in connection with botched up cataract surgeries, the Patna High Court on Thursday (January 13) asked the state government to file a reply in the matter in three weeks.
In the PIL, the petitioners have requested a court directive for compensation for the victims.
"We have filed a PIL in the high court seeking a direction for a high-level inquiry into the botched up cataract surgeries that resulted in the loss of vision for several people. The court has noted that it is a serious issue and directed issuance of notices to the state government," he said.
In violation of the guidelines of the Medical Council of India, Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital, situated in the Juran Chapra area, had conducted cataract surgery on 65 people in one day (November 22, 2021). All patients, a majority of them women, underwent surgery on a single operation table without sanitisation and sterilisation of equipment in just a few hours. The surgery was done by a single doctor. These revelations were made by a four-member team formed by the state health department to probe into the matter. It found that 328 cataract surgeries were conducted at the Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital between November 22-27.
This incident has also exposed an alleged health scam run by Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital in the name of conducting "free" cataract surgeries for the poor. According to reports, the hospital was charging between Rs 3,000 to 4,000 for each surgery. Health experts said that the main motive behind cataract surgery camps is to get more funds from the government scheme under the blindness control programme and other charity organisations- a racket that goes unreported.
The official enquiry report revealed that utter negligence and the presence of two types of harmful bacteria in the hospital's operation theatre caused severe infection. After the Opposition raised the issue in the ongoing winter session of the Bihar Assembly, the health department directed that an FIR be lodged against Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital and the doctor who conducted cataract surgery.
Muzaffarpur police lodged an FIR against 14 people, including the secretary, manager and doctors attached with the Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital, following a complaint by Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Dr Vinay Kumar Sharma. So far, no arrest has been made.