06 May 2010
By Bushra Baseerat
A staggering 50 per cent of the eyes donated in the state go down the drain, literally. While the demand for corneas is huge but almost half of the eyes donated are found to be “unsuitable’’ at the time of implants due to poor storage facilities in the state .
Out of the 90–plus eye banks in the state, nearly 50 are under government hospitals and are non–functional. In the year 2009, of the 4,525 corneas donated only 2,003 could be utilised. While some donated corneas are used for research and training, about 20 per cent of the ‘unhealthy eyes’ are being discarded every year.
While eye donations in AP have increased considerably over the years, the numbers of eyes which are unfit to be implanted too have increased proportionately. “After retrieval of the eye, a good storage facility is required to protect them. We have been writing to the government to grant us a storage facility which can store corneas for two to three weeks but in vain,” says Dr P V Nandkumar Reddy of Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital. While LVP does not report any cornea shortage, at the staterun Sarojini Hospital, 50–100 people are waiting for a cornea at any given time.
With the available storage facility, corneas can be stored only for a period of three days. If found unfit for implants, they are either used for research or discarded, doctors say. Dr Reddy says that this biggest eye hospital in the government sector is able to meet only 30 per cent of the requirements as far as cornea transplants are concerned.
With government eye banks not functioning, the EBAI members point out that social organisations and private eye banks available on call are doing their bit. “Sarojini Devi Eye hospital is not taking up collection works because it does not have the requisite infrastructure in place. If a bank has excess corneas, it donates the same to the hospital and they carry out the transplants,” said P Umachand of EBA.
As per data collated by the Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI), this 50 per cent utilisation has remained a constant since 2005. Incidentally, poor utilisation of corneas appears to be the reality across the country with Andhra Pradesh figuring fourth in the list of states that optimally utilise donated eyes.