Staff Reporter

The expenses will be borne by the State Government

Some 65 per cent of the population in the State suffers from cataract

The State Health Department starts ‘School Eye Screening’ programme for schoolchildren

BHUBANESWAR: The Orissa Government on Monday said it would try to conduct cataract operation on 1.5 lakh persons by the end of this fiscal for restoring vision of elderly persons.

Addressing a press conference here, Joint Director (ophthalmology) Pramila Panigrahi said while 45,600 cataract operations were carried out last year, the Government machinery with the help of voluntary organisations covered 14,125 persons with cataract operation within the first quarter of this fiscal.

The State Government is celebrating World Sight Day-2008 with a theme, “Eyes on the future-fighting vision impairment in later life” during October.

“Seventy per cent of blindness is curable. Regular testing and preventive treatment of elderly persons is very crucial. With healthy eyes one could earn dignity in family otherwise he or she will become a liability,” Dr. Panigrahi said.

According to studies, there are around six lakh blinds living in the State. Of them 65 per cent suffer from cataract problem. However, State Government extends free-of-cost treatment to these cataract patients.

Specs for students

Similarly, State Health Department has started “School Eye Screening” to rectify refractive errors. “We have covered 3,02,128 students the eye screening programme. Of them, 14,680 were found to have the error. We have provided free glasses to 7,355 students as a preventive measure,” she said.

Despite the tall claims by the Health Department, it failed to utilise the funds received from the Centre for correcting blindness in the State. Assistance to tune of Rs. 2.8 crore received towards purchasing costly equipment for testing and other purposes was lying unspent. Even Rs. 1.09 crore funds could not be spent last year.

Meanwhile, the State Government also received lukewarm response from public on eye donations. “The awareness level on eye donation is very low,” said Sukadev Sethi, the Director of Health Services. Last year, 92 units of eyes were collected by different eye banks, of which 62 could be utilised. Similarly, during first quarter of the fiscal, 19 eyes were collected and 18 of which were utilised. Similarly, Drustidaan, which is operating in LV Prasad Eye Institute here collected 64 units of eyes and utilised 34 of them.

Poor performance

The State Government has set a target of 600 units of eye collection this fiscal. SCB Medical College Hospital and VSS Medical College Hospital have poor performance in motivating people for donating eyes.

Realising the problem the Health Department had conducted Grief Counsellors’ Training for 30 staff nurse and health workers who were generally posted at emergency wards where deaths were occurred. They would carry out the task of motivating people to donate eyes of deceased.