At least 32 people in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao were operated for cataract at a government hospital under torchlight on Monday night, prompting authorities to transfer the district’s top health official and suspend a doctor for negligence and violation of norms.
The patients, from rural areas in Unnao and the neighbouring Kanpur district, were brought to the community health centre yesterday evening by a Kanpur-based NGO, the Jagdamba Sewa Samiti. The NGO facilitates free cataract surgeries for poor patients in the area.
The surgeries were conducted under the light of two torches at the primary healthcare centre (PHC) in Nawabganj, which like many rural areas of Uttar Pradesh gets electricity for only 12 hours a day.
"This is height of negligence. No one will be spared,” Unnao district magistrate Ravi Kumar N said on Tuesday.
Kumar ordered a probe by joint magistrate Manish Bansal and additional chief medical officer RK Gautam after he was told about the surgeries, which were carried out during an outage.
Power went off at around 7pm on Monday night and came back on Tuesday morning, sources said.
Chief medical officer (CMO) Rajendra Prasad gave the permission for the surgeries in violation of norms, sources said. While Prasad was transferred, PHC superintendent Dinesh Dass was suspended for negligence.
The CMO overlooked rules that said surgeries should be conducted at community health centres that were better equipped, sources quoted probe findings as saying.
"Taking a serious note of the matter, the Uttar Pradesh government acted promptly and suspended CMO Rajendra Prasad," Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh told PTI.
A report has been sought by the state health department regarding the entire episode.
District authorities have started investigating why the doctors went ahead with surgeries when the centre had no electricity or basic facilities.
Reports said that an NGO called Jagdamba Sewa Samiti brought the patients to the centre from Kanpur for a free eye surgery.
After the surgery, they were made to lie on the floor without blankets. By the morning, when several patients complained of itching in their eyes, the centre sent them home without informing the district authorities.
Uttar Pradesh has attracted bad press for a series of 'medical disasters' in the recent past, with the death of more than 60 children, mostly infants, at a government hospital in Gorakhpur being the latest case in point.
A hospital in Farukhabad recorded 49 deaths -- 30 in neo-natal ICU and 19 during delivery -- between July 20 and August 21 this year, reportedly due to a lack of oxygen supply.