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A physician who conducted cataract surgeries on 130 poor and elderly people at a health camp in the northern Indian state of Punjab has been arrested, according to the Associated Press.
A police complaint has also been reportedly filed against the hospital where the camp was held, according to local media reports Friday.
At least 24 people have lost their eyesight following free cataract surgery at the health camp, which was organized by a nonprofit in Punjab. The government has launched an investigation into the matter.
According to the AP, 130 people signed up for the surgery on Nov. 4 at the medical camp in Gurdaspur district, about 300 miles northwest of New Delhi.
According to NDTV-a local news network-the people were reportedly asked to return back on Nov. 29 for the cataract surgery, but authorities believe the operations took place in “severely unhygienic conditions” with poorly sterilized equipment.
"Some of the patients reported this week that they'd lost their eyesight or were suffering infections. . . doctors in Amritsar were treating some of the patients on Friday, but said it was unlikely any would regain their sight. Police have launched an investigation, and detained at least one doctor in Gurdaspur," the AP wrote.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said Friday that the state would pay about $1,000 to families of those affected, in addition to free medical treatment for the victims, according to the International Business Times.
All the victims have been reportedly admitted to hospitals in Amritsar and Gurdaspur, and authorities fear that the number of those affected could rise.
According to International Business Times, this latest incident raises concern over the quality of medical procedures adopted by charity-run camps, after 13 women died after a botched sterilization procedure last month in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
Nevertheless, the camps have proved vital healthcare tools in India, as the country’s public health system has faced many challenges in the past decade due to the rising income disparity between the wealthy and poor, according to AmeriCares India.
The nonprofit emergency response and global health organization said these issues are highlighted by several critical health issues:
· A high rate of malnutrition in children under 3 years old
· A high infant mortality rate, with diarrheal disease as the primary cause of early childhood mortality
· Poor sanitation and lack of potable water, along with increased resistance to drugs have also contributed to high rates of communicable diseases
· Economic growth has come a greater need for treatment of chronic disease