Forty-two-year old homemaker Sushma Das had come to the Behala branch of Netaji Eye Hospital with sand blindness in her left eye. A resident of middle-class neighbourhood of Bhupen Rai Road in Kolkata,she did not have enough spare money to undergo a costly surgery. At Netaji Eye Hospital she was successfully operated upon. The small insertion cataract surgery here gave her a new lease of life as she walked out with a renewed vision.
Similarly Nidha Rani Lodh,the 68-year-old resident of Porui Daspara Road,needed a phaco surgery which she got here against a cost which was a fraction of what most eye clinic of similar facilities would charge. She came here with a lot of pain and went back with a smile on her face. That has been our achievement, said an official at the hospital.
Even Ajit Kumar Das,(73),resident of Jadur Ghosh Road did not mind the distance he covered to reach the hospital for a phaco surgery on his left eye with minimum cost that he could afford.
They are three of the seemingly innumerable number of patients who had benefitted from the facilities of this branch of Netaji Eye Hospital at Ramchandrapur in Purulia,arguably the biggest eye hospital in eastern India and its branch in Behala.
Nanda Dulal Chakraborty,the general secretary of the hospital,during the inauguration of All India Blind Welfare Week on March 11 remembered Swami Asimananda the inspiration behind the initiative in Purulia and said there was a dire need for the spread of awareness as to how blindness could be prevented. During the week,the plight of incurable blind and the need for their education and rehabilitation was also propagated. Around 1,000 people had gathered at the campus of the hospital on the occasion and returned enlightened. It is amazing to see how an institution like this has been working for the last 30 years without any assistance from the government. We invite officials of the health department to come and have a look at how this cash-strapped hospital is extending help to the needy. This is one of the biggest eye hospitals in this part of the country with modern equipment, said Chakraborty,and added they welcomed people who wanted to extend any sort of help.
He also urged medical practitioners to consider their fees as the hospital was a non-profit making organisation which worked for the cause of the economically-weak people.
The hospital,which began as a 10-bedded eye camp in the mid-50s,is now a hospital spread on three acres and 250 beds. Due to its location,it not only treats people of Purulia district,but also from other districts like Bankura,Birbhum and Hooghly. Those coming from adjoining states like Jharkhand and Bihar are also taken care.
The hospital also organises camps across the state to spread awareness about eye care and prevention of eye-related diseases.
Hospital authorities pointed out that they were trying to put up an ICU at the hospital,taking the service available,several steps ahead. Another stumbling block to hassle-free treatment of children was the absence of an anaesthetist. Paucity of funds had been the main reason why the hospital couldnt afford those so far and with no help from the state government the problem has even snowballed over the years,but a determination to give service to the poor drives the venture and would continue to do so.