What started as a small, 14-bed clinic at the premises of Vijaya Hospital in Chennai in September 1978 has grown into the country’s most acclaimed eye hospital. Set up by Dr S.S. Badrinath and a group of philanthropists, Sankara Nethralaya was born out of an idea to establish a charitable, non-profit eye hospital, one that would bring world-class eye care to India.
With 228 beds and about 22 operation theatres, Nethralaya handles 1,500 outpatients and 90 eye procedures every day out of its two Chennai centres. But Nethralaya’s claim to fame is not just its high standards. It is also that half the patients are treated free. "My vision was getting weak with age due to a nerve problem which has been corrected," says P. Baalan, who underwent surgery free of cost six months ago at Nethralaya. "Lack of money did not affect my treatment."
Nethralaya also has the lowest post-operative infection rate of 0.03 against global standards of 0.07, a spin-off from the hygienic and dust-free atmosphere. And it has lured patients and doctors from across India. "This place is not money-oriented. In terms of quality, we are at par with the West," says Dr J. Biswas, among the 17 recognised ophthalmologists in the world in the field of uveitis (uvea is the nutritional middle layer of the eye. Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea).
The Cornea Service Centre at Nethralaya, staffed by six surgeons has performed the largest number of corneal transplants in India (412 in 1998). Doctors are also encouraged to conduct research. In 1983, the Vision Research Foundation was established with state-of-the-art equipment in microbiology, pathology, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology. Now that’s what you call an eye-catching act.
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