Lucknow: Three days after Uttar Pradesh (UP) ranked as the worst state in terms of overall health performance among large states, according to the NITI Aayog's Health Index released on Monday, in a major embarrassment to the UP government and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at least 27 persons who were operated upon for cataract during a mass contract surgery at the district hospital in Saharanpur lost vision, allegedly due to botched surgeries.
Shagun Bansal, a shopkeeper from Jiwala village of Saharanpur whose mother was operated on December 2 at the Seth Baldev Das district hospital, said a few days after the operation, instead of relief, swelling and pus developed in her eyes.
"When we approached Dr S Lal, who conducted the operation, he tried to give us some money and asked us to not raise the issue," he stated in his complaint to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
He further said that doctors in Chandigarh told him that if he had delayed for two more days in the treatment, his mother could have lost her life besides other eyes complications.
"When we reached Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) hospital in Chandigarh, doctors first refused to admit her as her infection had worsened but their hearts melted after we pleaded and she is under treatment," distraught Bansal told NewsClick, adding that there are several others patients from his district who came to Chandigarh after they lost vision.
Another victim, Brahmavati, a native Jhinjoli in Saharanpur, was operated on December 3 in the district hospital. Jeet Singh, the elder son of Brahmavati, says that her mother had a cataract in her left eye during a mass contract surgery. After the operation, he took his mother home. Furthermore, the eyes started watering four days later, accompanied by swelling, pain, and redness.
"We rushed to the district hospital after she developed some serious complications. After giving injections and painkillers, we were asked to go home despite not being relieved. We again took her to the district hospital, where doctors referred her to a private hospital. The doctors at the private hospital were also shocked after seeing her eyes. Now she is admitted at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) hospital in Chandigarh," Jeet told NewsClick over the phone.
The case of Subhash Chand of Saharanpur, whose wife Pramod was operated on in the district hospital on December 3, is also not different. The same trouble started with his wife. After this, she was also admitted to PGI Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, the family members led by a local Hindu outfit created an uproar and held a demonstration outside the district hospital against the negligence of hospital staff. The CMO of Saharanpur, Dr Sanjeev Manglik, has initiated an inquiry against doctors and other staff. He also constituted a five-member inquiry committee to look into the matter. Some patients have been referred to the PGIMER hospital in Chandigarh and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.
Meanwhile, CMO Manglik, said on December 2, a mass contract surgery at the district hospital was organised, where around 30 patients came. Most of them have suffered different levels of complications after the operation.
"We have constituted a panel to look into the reasons. Officials said cataract operations were conducted in batches once or twice a week in the hospital at a minimal cost," he told reporters.
He further added, "All the complications were highlighted during the second visit of the patients. We have constituted a committee, and the members of the committee will find out whether the problem emerged because of poor quality of lens, medicines, or there was an issue with the sanitisation of the operation theatre. The members were asked to keep observing all the patients minutely," he said.
When NewsClick asked about the patient who had accused the senior doctor of bribing them for "negligence" and not raising the issue, the CMO denied the allegations and said it was a completely baseless allegation.
"The patient who named senior doctor for giving him bribe is a senior and responsible doctor, and he can not do it," he said.
Commenting over the incident, Dr Sharad Gupta, a senior paediatrician and former president of the Indian Medical Association, Agra, told NewsClick, "This is CMO's responsibility as before any camp at a district hospital, it is CMO who gives the order for the same. He must ensure sanitisation of all equipment for operations and the place. In this case, patients have developed complications such as pus and swelling. It is only because of infected equipment used during contract surgery," Gupta told NewsClick, adding that NITI Aayog's report is justified.
"Opening AIIMS and medical colleges won't just magically help the situation. One can not improve the health infrastructure by opening hospitals. Until you have basic facilities and the workforce, where UP lags far behind in comparison with other states, the situation won't improve," he said.
It must be mentioned that with less than three months left for the Assembly elections, the Yogi Adityanath government has received some less than flattering news with UP once again figuring at the bottom of 19 large states and Left-ruled Kerala emerging as the state with the best overall health performance for the fourth consecutive year on the fourth NITI Aayog Health Index for 2019-20.
The NITI Aayog, released on Monday, comes when the BJP has been trying to portray a "transformed' UP under the Adityanath government. Marking his government's fourth year in office in March, Adityanath had said that the status of UP as a 'Bimaru' had been lifted to 'Samarth' (capable).