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A screen grab of NHRC website
A screen grab of NHRC website

NHRC issues notice to Telangana over botched-up eye surgeries

NHRC issued a notice to Telangana govt after seven people lost eyesight in an allegedly botched up surgery at state-run Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital in Hyderabad

Hyderabad: National human rights commission (NHRC) issued a notice to Telangana government after seven people lost eyesight in an allegedly botched up surgery at state-run Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital in Hyderabad.

Seven patients who underwent cataract surgery on 30 June lost complete vision in one eye after suffering a bacterial infection caused by superbug Klebsiella. An infected saline solution, Ringer’s Lactate was found to be the cause of bacterial infection.

The victims from poor backgrounds are all in the age group of 50 to 70 years. They included three men and four women, according to Times of India which reported the development.

The NHRC took suo moto cognizance of the report and issued a notice to Telangana’s chief secretary and director general of police on Friday.

“The Commission has observed that the contents of the news item indicate towards the violation of right to health of the patients," NHRC said in a statement on Friday. The state government has been asked to submit a detailed report in two weeks.

A case under Section 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered against the hospital.

Thirteen patients of 21, who underwent cataract procedure that day, suffered from infection. Six patients, however, responded well to antibiotic treatment administered by doctors in the aftermath of the surgery. Those who did not respond to the treatment lost their vision.

Contamination of Ringer’s Lactate (RL) solution was the main culprit, said Dr Rajender Gupta, deputy superintendent of Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital. The condition of three patients is not good and they may require additional surgery, he said.

Rajesh Tiwari, prinicipal secretary of health and family welfare, government of Telangana, couldn’t be reached for a comment as he was in a review meeting on Friday. He did not respond to Mint’s phone calls and text messages.

But the government appears to have swung into action after the incident came to light.

An official with direct knowledge of the case, on condition of anonymity, said the Drugs Control Administration of Telangana was pressed into action. The agency seized batch of 200,000 Ringer’s Lactate (RL) saline solution bottles supplied by a little-known Nagpur-based pharmaceutical company, Haseeb Pharmaceuticals.

“Some of the samples were sent to the lab to test for microbial contamination. We are waiting for the reports to take further action," the official said.

The official, however, declined to comment on NHRC notice.

A three member committee appointed by Telangana government in the aftermath of the incident gave a cleanchit to the doctors. In a report submitted on 11 June, committee members, Dr J Panduraja, superintendent, Regional Eye Hospital, Warangal, Dr K Venkateswarlu, joint director, National Programme for Control of Blindness, and Dr Ravi Shekhar, faculty at Nizamabad Medical College who investigated the matter absolved the doctors of any wrongdoing.

The committee based its conclusion on three test sample reports, which found Ringer’s Lactate (RL) bottles obtained from the hospital to be contaminated with superbug Klebsiella bacteria.

Ironically, Ringer’s Lactate (RL) solution bottle is used as cleaning fluid of the eye to remove bacteria and other impurities during cataract operation.

Haseeb Pharmaceuticals couldn’t be reached.

The Telangana Doctors Forum (TDF) a state-based medical professional body, defended the doctors and asked the government to inquire into the matter and review its medicine procurement process, where quality isn’t given much priority.

“The supplier Ringer’s Lactate (RL) solution bottle was blacklisted in West Bengal and a few other states. I don’t understand why we should purchase medicines from blacklisted company — that itself shows something fishy in the purchase," Dr.A Gopal Kishan, chairman of TDF said over phone.

Kishan said TDF has repeatedly made representations to the government on faulty procurement process adopted by Telangana State Medical Services and Infrastructure Development Corporation (TSMSIDC) and demanded the corporation be scrapped.

Kishan, who visited Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital with a team of senior doctors on 8 July spoke to patients, hospital staff and doctors and said TDF couldn’t find any fault with the doctors as they purportedly followed all procedures, and have been doing such surgeries for years.

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