Joshua Friedman 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Dozens of people come to the Udaygiri Lions Eye Hospital in India daily to pray at its temple. Many of them are former patients. They call the site the “temple of the eye.” The Lions Club of Udgir opened the hospital in Udgir in 2005. The hospital has been phenomenally successful. Since January 2006, the hospital has restored the sight of more than 21,000 cataract patients and screened nearly a quarter of a million outpatients. In its inaugural year, the hospital performed 3,815 cataract surgeries, possibly a Lions record for any start-up hospital. “The Lions Family of Udgir always felt that something substantial must be done for the people who are not able to receive proper medical care at home. The goals of SightFirst are in our hearts,” said Dr. R. N. Lakhotiya, president of the hospital. “This was an untouched and underdeveloped area with unaffordable care and without availability of services to reach the people most in need.” The remote area served by the hospital is underdeveloped in health care services. Forty percent of the population lives below the poverty line. By reaching out to this community, the hospital is addressing one of the five goals of the SightFirst program: targeting underserved populations. The hospital initially served only non-paying patients. Now nearly 40 percent of its patients are paying. This was made possible by establishing a strong reputation for excellent care and respect for the patient. Attracting such a sizeable percentage of paying patients addresses another important goal of the SightFirst program: creating sustainable eye care services. The Lions Club of Udgir has been involved in eye care services for nearly 20 years. District 323-H and the local Lions were awarded three SightFirst grants totaling $93,252 between 2004 and 2007 for hospital staff training, eye care equipment, an outreach vehicle, furniture, an electricity generator and clinical laboratory equipment. The most recent grant enabled expansion of the hospital to include a second building. Lions themselves contributed nearly $150,000 for the building. Tens of thousands of dollars more have come from the public, the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme and the MLA Local Area Development Scheme. The hospital conducts outreach work. In the Latur district alone, the hospital is responsible for more than 40 percent of the cataract surgeries done annually. Revan Siddapps Amboji Kore, 79, does not have any relatives to take care of him and was blind for eight months. He attended an outreach screening in his local village and was referred to the hospital, 62 miles away, for free cataract surgery. Lions provided free transportation. Now he can take care of himself. “I will bring all other blind people like me to the next screening so that they too can once again see and have a better life,” he said. The Lions of Udgir desire to do even more. They plan to provide diabetic retinopathy care, set up satellite centers and even establish an eye bank. By doing so, the hospital will fulfill yet another goal of the SightFirst program: developing comprehensive eye care systems.
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