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Flying eye hospital finishes another Indian missionnews
Venkatachari Jagannathan
27 November 2002

Chennai: The worlds only flying hospital and teaching facility ORBIS DC-10, completed its 13th programme in India on November 26 in Chennai and Salem. Orbis is a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving sight and eliminating avoidable blindness worldwide.

Sponsored by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), the three-week skill-enhancing programme focused on the care and management of children’s eye diseases. It was carried out by the Orbis team of doctors, nurses, anesthetists, and biomedical engineers from 12 countries in partnership with the local eye hospitals — the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO), Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai, and the TMS Eye Hospital in Salem.

To date, RMHC has awarded more than $ 340 million in grants worldwide, including a $1.3 million dollar grant to Orbis to improve the quality and availability of eye care for children in India, Peru and other countries.

Orbis began addressing blindness prevention in India in 1988 with the launch of the DC-10 plane programme. Since then, it has conducted numerous training programmes, including 12 aircraft-based and over 17 hospital-based training programmes, in a variety of surgical interventions. It has also provided training to other essential eye care workers. In 1999, the organisation opened a liaison office in New Delhi.

This time, more than 165 Indian doctors observed and assisted surgeries by eye surgeons from India, Turkey, Canada, UK and US on board the ORBIS DC-10, as well as at the partnering hospitals. Participants also attended lectures and workshops on childhood blindness. They practiced corneal transplants and cataract removals on animal eyes in a specially set up “wet laboratory”.

“All ophthalmologists in India, myself included, stand to benefit from training opportunities that will enhance as well as refresh our skills to treat and manage the delicate eyes of a child,” says Dr Namitha Bhuvaneswari, paediatric ophthalmologist and assistant professor of ophthalmology at RIO. Bhuvaneswari was one of the doctors to benefit from hands-on guidance from the Orbis team.

Fourteen nurses received intensive hands-on training from the Orbis nursing staff, working in the DC-10’s and local hospitals' operating rooms, sub-sterile rooms and recovery rooms. Another 60 nurses benefited from daily lectures and seminars on pre- and post-operative care of paediatric and general patients.

Currently, ORBIS supports initiatives to set up child friendly paediatric eye-care centres in Delhi and rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, bringing eye care services to the doorsteps of the poorest communities and villages.


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Flying eye hospital finishes another Indian mission