The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Eyewash’ slur on senior docs

Guwahati, Oct. 11: The botched cataract operations last month that led to 34 patients losing an eye each were conducted not by senior surgeons but allegedly “inexperienced hands”.

Atab Ali of Darrang district, one of those who lost an eye because of a severe post-operative infection, claimed today that he was operated upon by junior doctors. Ali had been sent to Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai in a last-ditch attempt to save his infected eye, but it was too late.

Family members of Ali threatened to move court against the doctors who conducted the surgery.

Relatives of Atul Barman, now undergoing treatment in Chennai, said “a very young doctor” had operated on him.

Although infection has been identified as the main reason for the patients’ predicament, reports of senior surgeons-cum-consultants of the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology leaving it to their juniors to conduct the cataract operations have fuelled the issue.

“Their busy schedule, lack of monetary incentives and the perception that cataract surgery does not require experienced hands resulted in the senior doctors being only superficially involved in the eye camp,” a source said.

Some paramedics were also pressed into service, while the senior surgeons “supervised” the operations “from the sidelines”, he said.

Even post-operative checks were allegedly done by “juniors. Sources claimed this was the practice at all eye camps conducted at the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology.

An inquiry committee headed by P.K. Goswami said Dispur had pressured the under-equipped institute to meet an unrealistic target of 50-odd operations each day.

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