TN: Free cataract surgery turns farmers' blind

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Chennai, Aug 24: In a tragic turn of events, as many as 45 farm workers, hailing from six hamlets in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, have suffered blurred vision and face the danger of losing their eyesight, after they underwent a free cataract surgery in a private hospital in Tiruchirapalli.

All the 45 patients were presently undergoing treatment at Joseph Eye Hospital in Tiruchirapalli and it could not be immediately ascertained how many of them would be able to secure their full sight. Initial reports suggested that eight people have completely lost their eyesight and 21 others were rendered partially blind, while others were fighting to get back their vision. However, when contacted, Perambalur District Collector Anil Meshram told UNI that all of them were undergoing treatment and how many had lost vision could be said only after the completion of the treatment.

Following complaints, the Collector had ordered an enquiry by a team of doctors and micro-biologists headed by the Dean of Perambalur Government Hospital N Balasubramanian.

He said the team was asked to submit a report within four days.

''The report is likely to be submitted by August 26 evening. After obtaining the legal opinion, we will proceed further,'' Mr Meshram said.

The nightmare began for the poor people on July 28, when Joseph Eye Hospital in Perambalur, along with Blindness Control Society of India, set up an eye camp at Kaduvanur village in Villupruam district of the state. In all, 65 aged people, most of them farm workers from the neighbouring villages of Thozhuvanthangal, Athiyur, Kanangadu, Arur, Pakkam and Ulakudainpattu were screened in the camp and 45 of them were recommended for cataract surgery.

The surgery was conducted at Joseph Eye Hospital in Perambalur on July 29 and after a week's stay at the hospital, the patients were brought back home on August 1.

Within a few days after returning home, they complained of vomiting, severe pain and blurred vision. Without realising the gravity of the problem, Kaduvanur Village Panchayat President Karunanidhi, with the assistance of Rotorary Club, brought doctors from Kovai Sankara Hospital.

The doctors, after a preliminary examination, found the situation grave and suggested that they be taken back to the hospital where they were operated upon.

On being taken to the Joseph Eye Hospital in Perambalur, they were shifted to the Headquarters Hospital in Tiruchirapalli, where all the 45 patients were given intensive treatment.

The hospital authorities claimed that the fluids used before the surgery could have been contaminated. A report suggested that laboratory tests conducted after the patients complained of blurred vision showed that the fluids used in the surgery were infected.

The episode came to light when the affected patients staged a 'road roko' agitation, after remedial treatment failed to bring positive results.

Hospital authorities, however, have assured that their eyesight could be restored and the problems set right. The treatment for restoring vision had already begun, they said.


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