Setting up and running Vision Centres
“It is not just my vision that was restored but my confidence as well.”
Shanthidevi* is a 55-year-old woman who lives in Chalisgaon district of Maharashtra. She lost her husband a long time ago and was dependent on her only son for provision. Her son worked as a farm labourer. His income was not sufficient to sustain both of them. Therefore, she started working at a ladies’ tailor shop to support her son. Her income from this job somehow helped them make ends meet. One day Shanthidevi noticed that her eyesight seemed to be deteriorating. She thought that it was a consequence of growing old and carried on without mentioning anything to anyone. Unknown to her, there was a cataract forming in her left eye. She managed for a few years until it reached a stage where it looked like she would lose her eyesight completely. She lost her job due to her poor eyesight. She was constrained to sit at home, worrying about how to earn enough to survive.
Shanthidevi could not afford to go to a doctor to get her eyes checked. One day her neighbour informed her about the Vision Centre at Chalisgaon and their free eye camps. The Vision Centre was set up by Cognizant Foundation in partnership with Mission for Vision, Mumbai and Tulsi Eye Hospital, Nashik. Shanthidevi went for the next camp in the neighbouring village and diagnosed with a mature cataract in her left eye. The social worker informed her about the need for immediate surgery. She learnt that the surgery would be free of cost and completed within a day. It was a boon for Shanthidevi. She immediately agreed.
She came to Tulsi Eye Hospital, Nashik and operated in her left eye. She is happy now that she could see once again. She had resumed working at the tailoring store. Shanthidevi expressed her heartfelt thanks to the entire hospital team for giving back her eyesight. She blessed the Cognizant Foundation and Mission for Vision for the work they were doing. She said to the social worker, “It is not just my vision that was restored but my confidence as well.”
Cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the two major causes of blindness in India. Lack of access is a barrier for the poor rural communities to avail eye care services. Distance and expenses such as transport fare and loss of daily wages are the key factors that prevent people from accessing services at hospitals. In such situations, village Vision Centres have proved successful in making available quality eye services to remote communities.
Cognizant Foundation has set up 8 Vision Centres across Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal in the last three years. These Centres were established in partnership with Operation Eyesight India, Hyderabad and Mission for Vision, Mumbai and several local eye health institution partners. These Vision Centres have screened over 27,000 patients from remote rural locations. Of the patients screened, 5700+ received prescription eyeglasses and, 2500+ patients received surgeries.
The Chalisgaon Vision Centre in Maharashtra uses teleconsultation to consult with expert doctors in the base hospital. The tele-consult facilitates quick access to experts saving patients the time, effort and money to visit the base hospital. The facility also efficiently utilises expert resources who have limited time to travel to different locations to examine patients.
* Name changed to protect patient privacy