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CSR funding needs to be directed towards eye care in NE; Lions Club of Guwahati giving a fillip

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Lions Club of Guwahati to get CSR funding for eye care.

Lions Club of Guwahati giving a fillip to eye care in NE

While eye health care in the Northeast region is far lagging, as prescribed by the Indian government and the World Health Organisation, the Lions Club’s Gauhati Lions Eye Hospital has been doing a phenomenal job in treating patients free of cost or at an affordable pricing.

Stating the lack of awareness and infrastructure in the eye care sector, experts have opined that the private sector, especially companies can contribute immensely through their CSR funds for providing effective treatment to prevent blindness and visual impairment.

Established in 1997 by the now Lions International District 322G, the hospital located at Chatribari treats approximately 2,15,000 patients annually.

The hospital runs on a corpus fund of Rs. 1.5 crores and for every free surgery, the Indian government provides a fund of Rs. 2000 under the National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI). Expenses are also met by donations.

About the hospital and the treatments:

The Gauhati Lions Eye Hospital is spread across 30,000 sq ft, with 25 beds. Since its inception, the hospital has treated approx. 2,15,000 patients, and conducted about 27000 surgeries. Of the total surgeries undertaken monthly, 70 percent of these are provided for free, and the profit from the remaining 30 percent is circulated for the efficient running of the hospital and also utilized in the free surgeries.

Anand Aiyar, a senior member of Lions Club told Business Northeast, “Lions International has three eye hospitals in the NE, one in Guwahati. The Guwahati hospital, apart from treating the patients, also provides places to stay. Every month about 200-250 cataract surgeries are done. We treat an average of 1800 patients monthly in OPD. The primary role of this Hospital is to support the needy people in meeting their health needs in the areas of Sight Conservation to their satisfaction.”

“We pick economically backward patients from remote areas by our vehicle and drop them back. We accommodate the patients for 3 days along with food and lodging. Following the free surgery, they are also supported with free spectacles if required,” he added.

The range of Ophthalmology treatments includes implanation, Phaco surgery, Glaucoma surgery, Lacrimal Sac & other minor surgery, Indirect Ophthalmoscopy, Green Laser amongst others.

Gauhati Lions Eye Hospital presently employs 45 staff including specialist ophthalmologists.

Additionally, it also has a dental wing, where treatment is again provided at affordable rates and the profit from the same is used to support the philanthropic eye care activities of the hospital.

NE lagging in eye healthcare and possibilities of CSR activities

Dr. Harsha Bhattacharjee, Founder Medical Director and Present President and Trustee of the Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya said, “Eye care facility of the NE region is mainly non-existent in the rural areas, as institutions are usually set up in urban areas. Then there is an attitude problem as people are either not aware or do not care to get treated for eye problems. And then there are financial constraints, as the cost of treatment is very high. We have conducted excessive research on these barriers. To overcome the lapses there needs to be two distinct stages of work – one is accessibility to service, and people’s empowerment through health literacy.”

“Apart from these, there is a serious lapse in human resources. In Assam there are about 650 ophthalmologists, of which not all are practicing; some are old, some do not do surgeries, and so on. There is also the need for infrastructure development in eye care,” he added.

Dr. Bhattacharjee said that the private sector and especially the NGOs are playing a significant part in eye care under the National Programme for Control of Blindness. About 60 percent of the treatments are being made available to the patients by the NGOs. “Across India, NGOs are predominantly working much ahead of the government services, and the government of India is also providing collaboration to the NGOs.”

He added that companies can play a significant role in providing effective surgical eye care under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work. “CSR work can be undertaken for any welfare activities, and companies need to think seriously in working on the eye care sector. A vast difference can be made.”

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