Indian Eye Clinic Uses Tiered Pricing to Combat Blindness Among Poor

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Madan Keshav, a shy 11-year-old, looks tired as he waits for the optometrist to examine his eyes. He says he and his father travelled by bus for two hours to reach the LV Prasad Eye Institute’s (LVPEI) hospital in Mudhol, a tiny village in southern India. He perks up a little when he is asked to read aloud from the eye chart.

Madan has been diagnosed with a refractive error – a condition that usually produces either myopia or hyperopia because the eye fails to focus light and form a clear image on the retina. The most common remedy is prescription glasses. But eye clinics are rare in rural India, and almost nonexistent in remote villages like the one in which Madan lives. The Brien Holden Vision Institute, a Sydney-based organisation researching eye health, estimates that 11 million Indian children are either blind or visually impaired because they have never been screened or prescribed glasses.

That’s something LVPEI, a not-for-profit organisation that runs a chain of 82 eyecare centres and a research institute, hopes to change. It serves at least 1 million people every year through 14 hospitals and around 80 screening centres – a network that is still expanding. More than half of the patients receive free treatment.

Healthcare providers such as LVPEI, whose work is funded by personal donations and organisations in India, the US and Australia, as well as through patient fees, are helping to meet the demand for decent, affordable healthcare.

According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2007, India is severely short of community health centres – it has less than half the number it needs to serve the population. Seventy per cent of hospitals in India are privately owned, which means millions of poor Indians, many of whom have no form of health insurance, have to find the money to pay for healthcare, which can leave them in debt.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

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