Update as of 6:00 a.m. EST: Dr. Vivek Arora, who conducted cataract surgeries on 62 people at a health camp in the northern Indian state of Punjab has been arrested, local media reports said Friday. A police complaint has also been reportedly filed against the hospital where the camp was held.
At least 15 people have lost their eyesight after undergoing free cataract surgery at a health camp organized by a nonprofit in the northern Indian state of Punjab, local media reports said Friday. The government has launched an investigation into the matter.
Authorities reportedly said that 62 people signed up for the surgery on Nov. 4 at the medical camp in Gurdaspur district, about 300 miles northwest of New Delhi. The people were reportedly asked to return back on Nov. 29 for the cataract surgery. Authorities believe that the surgeries took place in "severely unhygienic conditions" with poorly sterilized equipment, according to NDTV, a local news network.
"Some 6-7 people have lost their sight permanently. It will take a week to know whether the sight of the others can be saved," Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Ravi Bhagat reportedly said.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced Friday that the state would pay about $1,000 to families of the affected, in addition to free medical treatment for all the victims.
Rajiv Bhalla, a local surgeon, claimed that the proper medical protocol was not followed before organizing the free surgeries. He also reportedly added that all the patients came from poor families and were above the age of 60.
All the victims have been reportedly admitted to hospitals in Amritsar and Gurdaspur, and authorities fear that the number of those affected could increase.
The latest incident raises concern over the quality of medical procedures adopted by such charity-run camps, after 13 women died following a botched sterilization procedure last month in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.