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At least 11 Indians blinded after cataract surgery

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At least 11 people have lost their sight after undergoing free cataract surgery at a camp in northern India, local authorities say, as fears grow the final figure will be far higher.

Officials said 62 people had the surgery at a village camp run by a medical charity on November 4, and they were trying to ascertain how many people had lost their sight.

“For now, there are 11 confirmed cases of patients from the camp who have lost their eyesight,” said Abhinav Trikha, deputy commissioner of Gurdaspur district in the northern state of Punjab. Media reports suggested many more could be affected.

The case raises fresh concerns over the quality of medical procedures in India after the deaths of 13 women who underwent sterilisation surgery at a camp in central India.

Government officials have blamed contaminated drugs for their deaths, but an independent report published this week said they had suffered septicaemia. Doctors allegedly used the same unsterile equipment on dozens of women.

A government doctor who treated the latest victims said they had contracted infections after undergoing the surgery on November 4.

“They came to us in a very bad condition… the infection had already spread,” Karanjeet Singh told the NDTV news channel, adding that the “chances of restoring their eyesight” were much lower now.

Authorities said the problem first came to light when victims began coming forward this week.

“All these 11 people came to us on Wednesday and told us of the medical camp they had attended,” said Ravi Bhagat, deputy commissioner in neighbouring Amritsar district.

“They’ve since been admitted to a government hospital, but have entirely lost their eyesight,” he told AFP.

Bhagat said the camp was operating without government permission and authorities had registered a legal case against the Guru Nanak Charitable Hospital, where the surgeries were conducted.

AFP was not immediately able to reach the hospital administration for comment. SAPA

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