A leading eye hospital here has brought laurels to India by playing a major role in a mission aimed at eradicating needless blindness in the Commonwealth nations by training personnel, including ophthalmologists, nurses and microbiologists under a programme funded by British Queen Elizabeth II.
The doctors and paramedical staff trained by it in India will now be able to manage complex sub-speciality problems such as corneal ulcers, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, a senior ophthalmologist of the city-based Arvind Eye Care System (AECS), which organised the programme, said.
Opthalmologists from 19 countries including Nigeria, Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and Rwanda attended the five-year training programme at AEC, funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (QEDJT).
The trust provided 13.55 million Pound for the programme implemented in eight countries, including in India.
AECS in India is one of the 15 network host training institutions in the eight Commonwealth countries around the world, according to Dr Venkatesh Prajna, ophthalmologist of the hospital and a member of the Steering Committee for training of the Commonwealth Eye Care Consortium.
The hospital, founded by late Dr G. Venkataswamy who was credited with introducing a number of innovative programmes, including eye camps, to deal with the problem of blindness in the country, played a major role in the success of the programme and trained 40 per cent of the targeted ophthalmologists, he told PTI here.
The British Queen recently honoured all institutions, including the AECS, which took part in the programme and lauded their efforts.
Dr Prajna said he was among those who attended a reception hosted by the Queen in the Buckingham Palace last week for their role in training the ophthalmologists.
Prof Matthew Burton of the International centre for Eye Health, London, UK, in a letter to Prajna has described as colossal the contributions made by the AECS.
Though it was expected that the programme would train 100 personnel from the Commonwealth countries, it far exceeded the target with 140 individuals from 19 nations benefiting from the programme, Prajna said.
Elaborating on the training, he said earlier the ophthalmologists focused on cataract surgeries alone, but the training in this programme, bulk of which was organised in India, will help them treat cornea and retina problem and gain expertise in pediatric ophthalmology, oculoplasty besides in taking Opthalmic photography.
Giving an example of acute shortage of opthalmologists in many Commonwealth countries, he said Mozambique had only 27 opthalmologists for 27 million population, making it the country with the lowest doctor patient ratio in the world.
According to official data, a total of 12,000 children in Mozambique were living in blindness and the country's sole Paediatric opthalmologist Vasco da Gama was trained in the AECS, Prajna said.
The Indian doctors also trained a team including a ophtalmic nurse and refractionist. In fact, Dr Gama, with the Help of AECS, devised a health care policy and it had been approved by the government of Mozambique, he said.
Dr Nick Astbury Clinical Associate Professor of Diability and Eye health group London said AECS had trained both long term fellow and specialists and short term attachments in eight disciplines.
Tanzania also had set up training programme after getting training from Aravind ECS and this would have a ripple effect. Poor and under privileged countries in and around Tanzania would also benefit from the programme, he added.