Eye-care network to use global award for poor patients

May 23rd, 2008 - 12:49 pm ICT by admin  

Madurai, May 23 (IANS) A leading eye-care network in Tamil Nadu that has won the $1 million Gates Award for global health wants to plough the money back into healthcare for poor patients. “Our endeavour to provide affordable eye-care to the poor and rich alike at affordable prices has been globally recognised,” eye surgeon P. Namperumalsamy, recipient of world’s highest prize for healthcare, told IANS.

“Doctor P.N.” as the eye-surgeon is widely known in health circles, heads Aravind Eye Care System (AECS) - an organisation that has cured over three million persons of ocular defects since its inception in 1976.

Its doctors perform over 300,000 eye surgeries a year in five southern Tamil Nadu clinics situated between 400 and 600 km from state capital Chennai.

AECS has been awarded the $1 million Gates Award for Global Health - considered the equivalent of a Nobel in the field of healthcare worldwide. The award was announced Thursday.

“In 1976, we were just four retired and related doctors who wanted to accord best eye treatment to all in this part of the world. We provide lenses, comparable to international cutting-edge technology, to people at the Indian equivalent of $2. This is something that used to cost about $100 and more,” the 88-year-old surgeon, who retired in 1976, pointed out.

AECS spokesman R. Ramanathan says that the organisation exports locally-manufactured world class lenses in technical collaboration with the best in the world to over 100 third world countries.

“Depending on the spending capacity of the patient, need for comfort and the origin of the lens, rich patients are charged Rs.8,000-14,000 for a cataract operation,” he said.

“For the poor, not only the treatment, but also boarding and lodging are absolutely free. What is more, the same doctors operate upon all patients on the same operation tables and provide the same care,” Namperumalsamy added.

AECS is also recognised as a premier teaching institution by two Tamil Nadu universities. It operates eye hospitals and nearly 30 tertiary units in various places around the state. The institution has imparted training to hundreds of doctors and thousands of rural women paramedics, its spokesman said.

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