One after the other tragedies in surgical camps indicate that for the time being all surgical camps whether tubectomy (female sterilization), eye camps or any such medical camps in which surgery is done in a remote place in camps should be stopped and restarted only after a thorough workout to ensure safety norms.
Death of 19 women in Chhattisgarh recently due to spurious drugs containing rat killer medicine, and now 60 people losing eye sight following cataract surgery in Punjab are very unfortunate and worst of the worst instances of negligence on the part of all those authorities who are supposed to ensure that everything is up to the mark before asking a surgeon to conduct the camp.
Loss of vision after cataract surgery was also reported in a camp held in Chhattisgarh two years ago. Few years ago in Rajasthan similar tragedies occurred in eye camps at Kishangarh and another at Beawer.
The surgeon is responsible only for the surgical complications if any, occurring during or after the surgery that too, if the proper facilities were provided to him and he approved those facilities. The surgeons should have enough courage to say no not only to such camps rather in a hospital too, if they find that the conditions are not suitable. In that case it is better to transport the cases to an institute.
There are instances when unforeseen problems arise during surgery e.g. electricity failure while performing an operation. The surgeon at that time uses whatever light source available to save life; he has to bear the heat of the OT during operation and fury of attendants if any untoward complication or death occurs.
Free surgery camps should be banned across the country like the Orissa government has done. They should be conducted only if the infrastructure, equipments, operating conditions, medical staff, drinking water, hygienic food and safe lab-tested drugs etc are available as per the standards laid down. These facilities should be checked and certified by a team of eminent doctors having members like one from AIIMS, one from a corporate hospital, one from IMA and the operating surgeons etc. Then only such medical camps should be allowed to conduct operations.
The camps till now are being organized on a call by a politician or a philanthropist to mark some family event or by an NGO. In one way, it is good that someone is sponsoring the camp as a part of charity, but that does not mean that the organizers (not doctors) forget that they deal with human beings. May be they are poor, downtrodden, uneducated, socio-economically backward or whatever, our Indian constitution has provision of right to equality, right to health and life and right to live with dignity. In camps we find that there are hardly any facilities of indoor beds, privacy, toilets, safe drinking water. The question is if such basic facilities are not available then expecting a reasonable medical set is beyond imagination at such camps. It seems that all the constitutional provisions have been forgotten.
Who is responsible to verify that preoperative and operating conditions and postoperative care will be justified in a proposed camp? It seems that as on date nobody bothers. It is just a blindly permitted routine event, where it is sure that everyone is a gainer. Risk of mortality or morbidity if at all has to be borne by the poor patients.
What is the basic aim behind organizing these camps? Is it for making money by the private service providers, is it to strengthen the vote banks of the politicians, is it for making TA/DA by the government machinery or is it for completing the targets of an NGO? Whatever it is the first and the foremost basic aim should be Service to Humanity.
If there is any compromise on human life, everyone responsible should be taken into account for a stern action otherwise we must STOP these killer camps for the sake of humanity.
Dr Ashok Mittal
Director & Chief Orthopaedic Surgeon
Old Mittal Hospital, Ajmer