“Activating Eye Banking post-COVID Pandemic”-Experts from PGIMeR

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Chandigarh | Participating in a National Consultation on “Activating Eye Banking post-COVID Pandemic”-On the occasion of Eye Donation Fortnight (EDF) 2021, Prof. Dr. Jagat Ram Director PGIMeR Chandigarh congratulated Strategic Institute for Public Health Education and Research (SIPHER), Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh; NPCBVI Punjab, Haryana & UT Chandigarh for organizing a consultation on this important issue. He impressed upon the need of a coordinated effort by all stakeholders so that patients waiting for Cornea Transplantation is not made to wait for too long in view of the fact that COVID situation is stabilized now and people need to be motivated to donate eyes of family members in case of a mishap. He also welcomed the Hon’ble Chief Guest Padma Shri Dr. Vikas Mahatme, a member of Rajya Sabha and an eminent Ophthalmologist of International repute, leading the team of 150 + through his several hospitals. He has been the Founder Medical Director of Mahatme Eye Bank Eye Hospital Nagpur, So far, the hospital has performed over 1 Lac 80 Thousand Eye operations out of which over 80,000 operations have been done FREE of cost.

Dr. Mahatme deliberated upon his suggestions for activating Eye Banking post-COVID Pandemic and promised to take up the issue at the highest level. He said that there is need to activate the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Program HCRP to get more good quality cornea tissue, all states need to have an apex eye bank for processing the donated cornea tissue and to distribute to Keratoplasty Centers where required, we need to have more trained Cornea Surgeons but need to do away with requirement of fellowship, Eye Donation Centers need to be available at Tehsil level so that Eye Donation Movement percolates even to villages. He also agreed with suggestions of experts that the rules need to be changed for implementation of Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act (THOTA) to make Eye Donation Simpler.

Prof. Dr. Radhika Tandon from RP Centre AIIMS N-Delhi who has been associated with CBBF Punjab initiative since its inception as a technical expert said that 6 years ago in September 2015, the CBBF initiative was conceptualized by Mrs. Vini Mahajan Chief Secretary Punjab and she ensured that all the stakeholders including Government/Private Corneal Surgeons, NGOs, Para Medical Staff, and even Police Department were on board. The major gains were qualitative improvement in eye donations and Keratoplasty Surgeries as there was regular monitoring. She deliberated that In an unusual fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, eye donations have seen a drastic fall. Nationally, fewer donations have led to a serious shortage of the corneal tissue needed for transplants to restore vision in people suffering from loss of eyesight due to irreparable damage of the tissue. The opportunity exists for Indian eye banking to grow rapidly and sustainably by leveraging global best practices with the leading eye banks in India.

Dr. Rakesh Gupta, a former Director Health Services Punjab and President SIPHER elaborated that there are around 1.2 Million corneal blind persons in the country and about 20,000 to 30,000 cases get added every year. In addition, we have 5-6 million unilateral corneal blind people in India. India has made great strides in addressing blindness overall but lags in treating corneal blindness due primarily to a lack of transplantable corneal tissue. Awareness campaigns and eye bank development efforts in the past 7 years have shown modest success, with increased transplant surgeries 2011 onwards. However, this growth rate is far below the Vision 2020 goal of 1 lakh transplants per year by 2020.

Prof. Sonu Goel, PGI Chandigarh said that this campaign aims at creating mass public awareness about the importance of eye donation and to motivate people to pledge their eyes for donation after death so that many blind people can get a gift of sight

The eminent panelists, all of whom were awarded with CORNEA Hero Award 2020 Dr. Ashok Sharma, Dr. Shakeen Singh, Dr. Amit Gupta, Dr. Karamjit Singh, Dr. Ramesh Chand, Dr. Rohit Gupta and State Program Officers NPCB &VI, Dr Jagdeep Singh Basur and Dr. Rana Singh enlisted the Challenges and the need to improve the manpower situation and Infrastructure status of Eye Banks and Keratoplasty Centers. Mr Arun Verma Director Operations of SIPHER summarized the proceedings to finalise the recommendations for The Government to be conveyed to Hon’ble Chief Guest Dr Vikas Mahatme

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