Murder at health camp, say blinded patients



Raipur: "It is like someone called me for sweets and then engineered a cold-blooded murder," 47-year-old Lalmati said at Chhattisgarh's largest government hospital here.

She was referring to a botched cataract surgery at a government health camp recently that has left her blind in one eye.

A resident of Durg district's Dalli-Rajhara area, Lalmati was among the 325 people persuaded by local authorities to attend the camp at Balod, 120 km from capital Raipur, and make it a highly successful. The weeklong event concluded Sep 30.

"I lost sight in my left eye minutes after the surgery," 59-year-old Bhaiyalal Dheemar from Shikaripara in Balod said.

"I told doctors to be careful because I have to take care of my wife, who is ailing for five years, and my son and daughter-in-law do not live with me, but they kept telling me not to worry," he said.

"Why have they blinded me? I need a reply," he demanded in anger.

So far 45 persons, mostly the elderly one the poor, have lost sight after being operated on by government doctors. Six men and five women were admitted in Raipur while others were taken to government hospitals in Durg and other places.

"I had cataract in both my eyes. One eye was operated upon and I was told the second would be operated a few months later. After the operation, there was swelling within hours and pus a day later," Lalmati said.

"I lost my eyesight completely," she rued. "The doctors who are caring for me in Raipur say there is no chance of regaining sight as there were blunders at the health camp."

She is among the 11 persons shifted Oct 13 to Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Government Medical College and Hospital here -- after families of patients and locals protested for a week seeking immediate medical attention for the affected.

"My wife has poor vision for about two years and I had no money to get her operated upon at a private hospital due to high medical costs," Lalmati's husband Gorakhnath said.

"I was really thrilled to hear that the government would be holding a weeklong camp Sep 30, but the operation turned my family life to hell overnight: she lost sight from one of the better eyes," Gorakhnath said.

"I tell people: never go to government health camps because doctors behave like killers; they don't respect human values and feelings," he said as he sat by his wife's bedside.

"I don't know how I will lead my life because my wife was earning some money selling vegetables," he said. "I relied on her earnings because I have already several health problems."

Dr. Ashok Chandrakar, head of the eye department at the Ambedkar hospital, is most sympathetic.

"Very difficult to restore their eyesight," he said. "Those doctors made basic mistakes and there is hardly any chance to help other than offering them sympathetic words. Had they been brought earlier, perhaps. Not after two weeks."

Top officials here at Directorate of Health Services admit "mistakes by doctors at all levels at the Balod camp" but but refusing say anyone will have to pay the price after the probe report.

Sources say that the state government has received a report from Durg district collector Reena Babasaheb Kangale, in which she has held all the doctors -- P. Joshi, C.M. More, A.K. Mishra and others -- guilty of gross negligence and recommended tough action.

IANS