The operation theatres in the Department of Ophthalmology at Mayo Hospital have been closed because of concerns about hygiene and sterilisation, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, doctors at the department said that a high rate of post-surgical infections had been seen in recent days and the three operation theatres would be closed for the next six days so they could be sterilised.
“A third of patients have shown symptoms of post-surgical infections, which is an alarming rate,” said one doctor.
However, a professor at the eye department and the vice chancellor of King Edward Medical University denied that there had been an increase in post-surgical infections.
An ophthalmologist at the hospital said that pathologists had collected samples from the operation theatres to identify the pathogen causing the infections. “Puss gathers in the operated eye and papillary membrane which leads to a decrease in vision,” he said, describing the infection.
He said that the infection was likely a result of poor hygiene at the operation theatre or improper sterilisation of equipment. “The suspicion is that it’s a bacterial infection. The experts will find out after lab tests,” he said.
Another doctor at the department said that the infections may have been caused by under-training technicians from the Punjab Institute of Preventive Ophthalmology who entered the operation theatre without washing properly.
“A surgeon never touches anything after washing up, but trainee technicians don’t really take enough care. The under-training technicians come into the theatres and when they don’t follow the standard washing protocol, it can be very dangerous. Six to seven trainees come to every operation,” he said.
Another doctor at the department said that a third of patients in the department were suffering post-surgical infections.
He too believed that this was likely a result of people entering the operation theatre without cleaning their hands and arms up to their elbows properly.
The doctor said that there was stagnant water in the basement of the department and the roof of one operation theatre was leaking. “What else can you expect but infections in such circumstances?” he said.
The Ophthalmology Department was renovated at a cost of Rs70 million in 2007. According to official figures, around 210 patients are operated on per week at the eye department.
Prof Tahseen Sahi, who is in charge of Unit 1 of the department, confirmed that the operation theatres had been closed for sterilisation, but denied any problems with post-operation infections.
Dr Asad Aslam Khan, a professor of ophthalmology and vice chancellor of KEMU, also denied there had been a surge in the infection rate.
“A team of Chinese doctors is coming to Mayo Hospital next week under a Pak-China friendship project. They will bring lenses and other equipment and do 250 operations here for free. We have closed the theatres to spray them properly and it requires 72 hours,” he said.
Dr Khan said that some patients had suffered inflammation of the eye after surgery, but they didn’t have infections.
He said that the technicians did not wash up as they were there only to observe and did not enter the operation theatres.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.
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