In my travels, I have made it a point of understanding how other organizations work, their strategies and funding priorities, and comparing them to our Operation Eyesight partnerships and support. On my last visit to India, I was able to visit two of our partner hospitals and here are my observations. If the key to eliminating avoidable blindness is the development of sustainable health infrastructure (which includes eye care that does not require foreign support) then we are on our way to achieving that goal in India and using our experience and knowledge there to achieve similar results in Africa.
Together with my colleagues Lynda Cherry and Kashinath Bhoosnurmath, I travelled to the Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital in northern India. This hospital was established in 1983 by the local Lions Club and its members comprise the trustees of the hospital. I believe it has been an Operation Eyesight partner hospital since that time.
The hospital in Siliguri was one of the original 41 that accepted Operation Eyesight’s challenge to improve their performance and the quality of their surgery. Like most of the hospitals they made reasonable progress towards that goal, but seemed to stall a couple of years ago. Since his appointment as our Senior Director India Programs, Kashinath has met with all our India partners to review their progress against the original evaluation and recommendations made by the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVP). Kash (as we call him) and his team were able to work with the staff of the Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital to help them move forward again and this hospital is now an outstanding success.
Just to detail that success, compared to typical “charity” hospitals in India (and not including government hospitals which are in appalling condition with very low productivity) the Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital was spotlessly clean and very well maintained. It was quiet and orderly – many such hospitals are crowded, chaotic, noisy and difficult to negotiate through. Waiting rooms in the hospital are well organized, patients move smoothly through the consultation process and treatment areas.
The Board of Directors and management have recognized the need for well-trained and motivated staff at every level. They have instituted everything from training and quality review programs to award programs, and they recognize exceptional employees. The hospital is also implementing an electronic admissions and record system. The ophthalmologists* are passionate and dedicated, and the management and Board have a long term vision and plan for the hospital which is not typical. In fact, they have been invited by the government of Bhutan to help establish eye care services there too, which is severely lacking in that country.
The Indian state of Sikkim, to the north, is also keen to partner with the Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital on the same basis. The hospital is in discussion with Operation Eyesight India to develop plans for Sikkim and Bhutan. Kash, Lynda and I paid a site visit to Sikkim for that purpose.
The Siliguri hospital, through the Lions Club, has been successful at augmenting revenue through fundraising. At this point, Operation Eyesight only needs to support for the Community Eye Health Program which will also become sustainable. The hospital itself is 130% cost recovery on fee revenue, which is excellent.
I also want to touch briefly on another hospital I am very impressed with. In 2006, Operation Eyesight funded the construction of a new home for the Siloam Eye Hospital. Previously in a rented facility, this hospital gained a brand new building and a new identity as an LVP satellite hospital. I opened it with Dr. G.N. Rao, founder of LVP, in 2007. The Siloam Eye Hospital is located in the state of Andhra Pradesh about a two and a half hour drive from Bangalore. It is a poor rural area where agriculture is the primary industry, including the production of mulberry bushes which feed the silk worm industry. Dr. Shoba Naveen, the Medical Director, is an extremely competent ophthalmologist. Again the hospital is fully financially sustainable and quality outcomes are the priority.
I am confident in saying, and it is important to note, that Operation Eyesight partner hospitals in India can compete with any private hospital in India when it comes to physical facility presentation, financial sustainability and, most importantly, quality outcomes. And further, Operation Eyesight requires that all partner hospitals provide optical services including free eye glasses to anyone who cannot afford to pay. This is an outstanding success for us. We have accomplished this through the comprehensive development and change management support and strategies led by Lynda, facilitated by the Operation Eyesight India team and with the very important partnership of the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad which is our global training resource.
*Ophthalmology is the branch of medical science that studies the eyes, their diseases and defects. Ophthalmologists are eye specialists that are able to perform many procedures, such as eye surgery.