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Health Scandal in Bihar, Many People Lose Eyesight After Cataract Surgery

The case came to light when early this week, some family members and close relatives of patients, who underwent cataract surgery and developed severe pain, approached the Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Dr Vinay Kumar Sharma. They accused the eye hospital of negligence in conducting cataract surgery in a hurry.
Health Scandal in Bihar, Many People Lose Eyesight After Cataract Surgery

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Freepik

Patna: A health scandal by a private eye hospital to make more money by conducting free cataract surgery of the poor has emerged in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district. Dozens of poor people have lost eyesight, and the eyes of at least another dozen people were removed due to severe eye infections after they underwent cataract surgery.

The case came to light when early this week, some family members and close relatives of patients, who underwent cataract surgery and developed severe pain, approached the Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Dr Vinay Kumar Sharma. They accused the eye hospital of negligence in conducting cataract surgery in a hurry.

In violation of the guidelines of the medical council of India, Muzaffarpur Eye hospital, situated in the Juran Chapra area of Muzaffarpur, conducted cataract surgery on 65 people in one day (November 22, 2021). All patients underwent surgery at the single operation table without sanitisation and sterilisation of equipment in a few hours by one doctor, as revealed by a four-member team formed by the health department to probe into the matter on Tuesday. The team was formed after it was reported that negligence by the private eye hospital cost eyesight of many, and the eyes of several patients had to be removed owing to panophthalmitis after cataract surgery.

"One doctor could conduct cataract surgery of a maximum of 30 patients at one table. Still, more than double cataract surgeries were performed that day," Dr Rajeev Kumar Singh, an eye specialist and one of the members of the probe team, said.

According to team members, Dr ND Sahu, who had conducted cataract surgery at the eye hospital, was not a permanent staff but was hired on contract only for surgery. There have been no eye specialist doctors in the hospital for the last two months. The hospital management tried to manipulate facts in the incident related to Dr Sahu, who has no record of conducting any cataract surgery in recent years.

Rammurti Singh, Harendra Rajak, Jaitun Khatoon and Kalshiya Devi have one thing in common- their eyes were removed due to severe eye infections after they underwent the cataract surgery last week.

"A day after cataract surgery, there was severe pain in my eye. I approached the eye hospital, they administered an injection and gave me some medicines. But as the pain continued, I revisited the hospital, and they removed an eye," Rajak said.

Singh, another patient whose eye was removed after cataract surgery, said the pain in the eye started a few hours after surgery.

"When it continued, I visited the hospital. They administered an injection and gave me some tablets. But all this failed to end the pain in my eye. The hospital has removed my eye by operating again, citing infection that may cause more problems."

Other patients shared similar tales of severe pain. Some patients said that unbearable pain in their eyes after cataract surgeries forced them to agree to remove the eye as the hospital warned them that infection might cause loss of vision in other eyes and, in worst cases, even cancer.

As per reports, several patients who underwent cataract surgery complained of pain and discomfort in their eyes and were admitted to the government-run hospital. They have been undergoing treatment by eye specialist doctors.

Civil Surgeon Sharma refused to provide exact official data about the number of patients who lost their eyesight and had to get their eyes removed.

"Wait for the probe report. Everything will be explained," he said.

Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said that the team probing into the matter would submit the report within three days. Proper action will be initiated against those found responsible in the matter.

However, a health expert said several private eye hospitals across Bihar organise special cataract surgery camps during winter (November to February ). They are doing it free on paper, but they charge Rs 1000 to 4000. As free cataract surgery camps mainly attract poor and illiterate people, these hospitals hardly pay proper attention to sanitisation of the operation theatre and equipment sterilisation that causes infection.

"But the main motive behind cataract surgery camps is to get more and more funds from the government scheme under blindness control programme and charity funds and other funds from international organisations. This is a part of a big racket as several people lose eyesight after cataract surgery every year. It is hardly reported", he said.

Bihar is well known for its poor healthcare infrastructure. The reality of this has been exposed time and again during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the latest NITI Aayog Multidimensional Poverty Index, about 51.9 % of the state's population is poor. Based on the National Family Health Family Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) data and preliminary findings of the NFHS-5, the index showed that Bihar has the highest number of malnourished people.

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