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Times of India
28 January 2011
Lucknow' India

Eye Care At Your Doorsteps
In what could prove to be a significant leap towards serving patients suffering with eye ailments in the state, the tele–ophthalmology section of Sanjay Gandhi Post–Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) is all set to get connected with the primary health centres in some of the rural and urban areas.

The tertiary care centre would also have a dedicated Out Patient Department (OPD) where eye experts would get hooked on with the selected primary health centre in the state and provide their consultancy to the needy. In a way, a villager residing in a remote village would not be required to come all over to SGPGIMS to avail the facility. Institute director, Dr Raj Kumar Sharma said that the set up would be a part of the National Blind Control Awareness Programme.

In the first phase, one village each in Rae Bareli and Banda would be taken up. In all, there would be 52 villages which would be taken up gradually. The selected villages would be the ones where the prevalence of eye ailments have been reported to be significant.

Once the scheme of things worked out, technology support and connectivity for mobile telemedicine units for rural health camps would be put in place.

Dr Sharma said that all selected PHCs would have a special machine which would relay images of patient’s eye to eye experts at SGPGI, which in turn is already in the process of setting up a dedicated ophthalmology centre at the institute. Two senior doctors – Dr Kumudini Agarwal and Vikas Kannaujia – have been appointed to take care of the project, said Dr Sharma.

If the project works as expected, the director said, the PHCs would be provided with potable machines which could be carried to other centres as well. "This would facilitate a large coverage of people in that respective region," he said.

The project is aimed to address the vast population of people suffering with eye diseases, essentially cataract, glaucoma and retinitis. India’s blind population totals a whopping 12 million. Of this, more than two thirds of visually handicapped live in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Cataract, the leading cause of visual disability, accounts for 62.6% of blindness in the country, experts said.

Other causes are glaucoma, mascular degeneration, posterior segment pathology, retinal detachment, corneal opacities, retinitis pigmentosa, and surgical complications. Experts maintain that a large undocumented cause for blindness in India is diabetic retinopathy, especially among the working middle class. The extent of the problem, however, is yet to be estimated precisely.

The National Programme for Control of Blindness which was launched in 1976, aimed to reduce the overall blindness prevalence rate from 14 blind persons per 1000 population to three.

The SGPGIMS, as a matter of fact, has been hinging its hope on its telemedicine centre which has been involved in a number of tie–ups with various other institutes and hospitals across the country. The tele–ophthalmology would be an extension of that effort.

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