This is in reference to the news item “Launching first ever Corneal Transplantation Surgery at GMC Jammu” published in your esteemed newspaper dated 22nd Feb, 2018. It was heartening to note that the Corneal Transplantation Surgery has been started again in GMC Jammu. I would like to bring forth some more facts in this regard for the information of the readers and hope that the same shall be carried in your forth coming issue in greater public interest. Earlier also Corneal Transplant surgery was being done in the department of Ophthalmology, GMC, Jammu even in 1980’s and it was started by veteran Ophthalmologist Dr. Subhash Gupta the then Professor & HOD Ophthalmology , (Principal Dean GMC, Jammu) who is still the senior-most eye surgeon in the State. Dr. Subhash Gupta had been doing so with bare minimum infrastructure facility/ paramedical staff and the corneal transplants went on till late 1995 in GMC. It was former Chief Minister of J&K Dr. Farooq Abdullah who had shown special interest and magnanimity towards Dr. Gupta to the extent that an Eye Bank was inaugurated in the department in 1987 by him, with whatever resources that were available at that time. Some infrastructure was also developed and post of an eye surgeon, paramedic, transplant facility, etc were created for the purpose. An Eye Bank is supposed to procure, preserve, store and distribute corneas. But unfortunately that Eye Bank afterwards remained non functional due to unknown reasons despite the Government of India being there to provide one time funds for establishing eye banks where ever required. No doubt, ‘The Human Organs Transplantation Act’ (THOTA) was introduced by GoI in the year 1994 ( it was modified in 1995) which was applicable to all the states except in J&K which had to formally adopt it . After THOTA, there were stringent laws (Rs. 10000 fine and 2 years rigorous imprisonment) for the eye surgeons who performed transplants in violation of the Act where ever applicable. This led to discontinuity of transplant surgeries at some places as the eye surgeons were subjected to stringent codes. Still, the number of corneal transplant surgeries performed was sufficient as one of the postgraduate students was also given this as a topic for his thesis. Even some of the present faculty members in GMC were Junior Residents/ Postgraduate students at that time. I express heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the present Minister for Health and Medical Education, Bali Bhagat, present faculty members, administration GMC Jammu and Department of Ophthalmology who have come forward to revive this procedure again in GMC and wish them all success to sustain the process that has been restarted and go ahead to alleviate the corneal blindness cases where the only option is corneal transplant. But to carry the mission ahead , GMC administration will have to do a lot of motivation and promotional work for Eye Bank.
Dr. Purshottma Sadhotra