Narayana Nethralaya: An Eye Of The Millions For A Sparkling Future
“Getting eyes checked for all children twice, first at the age of three and second at the age of eight, must be made mandatory. This provision must be weaved into the statutory health policy in order to prevent problems related to eyes in future,” says Dr Bhujanga Shetty
Sundareshwar, 28, assistant accou-ntant in a private company; Rajappa Nayak, 28, sales executive in a private firm; Kamalakar Prasad Sharma, 28, front office executive in a 3-star hotel: All are from different parts of Karnataka and none of them are known to each other. But there is something common in all the three; they could not realise their life dream of joining the Indian defence forces due to defect in their eyes.
“I was told that my right eye is called lazy eye as its functional capacity is only 50 per cent. I was further told that this could have been set right had I undergone an eye check up at the age of five or six. But now it is too late,” Nayak said, while speaking to Uday India correspondent in Bengaluru, with disappointment writ large on his face. The stories of Sundareshwar and Sharma are almost similar. Both had minor defect in their eyes and could not make it to the defence forces. “There could be millions of Sundareshwars, Rajappa Nayaks and Sharmas throughout the country, who may not have been able to get into defence or para-military forces due to slight defect in their eyes. This only proves the absence of high-level and quality of awareness about eye care,” said Dr Bhujanga Shetty, Founder-Chairman and Managing Director of Narayana Nethralaya, a premier post-graduate institute of ophthalmology in Bengaluru, during his conversation with this correspondent.
DR BHUJANGA SHETTY: AN UNASSUMING GENIUS
Born in Kundapur, a coastal town in the erstwhile undivided Dakshina Kannada district, in 1953 (at present Kundapur is in Udupi district) in an economically humble agrarian background, Bhujanga Shetty came to Bengaluruat the age of 10, with hope in his heart, dream in his eyes and prayers on his lips.
The missionary zeal with which he completed his schooling and college made his benevolent guardians to encourage him to do medicine. “The robust family values with morals and ethics infused into me by my parents and later by the teachers, helped me face the challenges and complete medicine with distinction from Bangalore Medical College,” Dr Shetty, modesty personified, says.
Dr Shetty is also a spiritual personality. His book Power of Love has inspired leaders and masses with a pragmatic philosophy for everyday living. In recognition of his services to the people, the Karnataka government selected him for the prestigious Kannada Rajyotsava Award in the year 2010. Awards and recognitions from voluntary organisations, throughout the country, are innumerable. Yet, Dr Shetty remains unaffected by the bouquets and praises.
Dr Shetty’s every day prayer is, God, give me strength to serve people; give me strength not to be carried away by praises, appreciation and awards; give me strength not to collapse at the times of adversity.
Started as a one-room clinic way back in 1982 in Bengaluru city, Narayana Nethralaya (NN) has now three campuses with a built-up area of about 2 lakh square feet, where over 1000 patients visit the three campuses. NN has to its credit treating of over 1.10 million patients. In 2011, NN was ranked as the best. “This is the highest ranked position of an eye hospital in the private sector that is self-funded,” Dr Shetty revealed. As recognition for delivery of highest quality of eye care, NN received accreditation from the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health Care Providers (NABH). “This accreditation is testimony to the fact that NN super specialty eye hospital care pathways are protocol driven, reflect global practices and ensure that patients consistently receive safe and state-of-the-art eye care,” Dr Shetty explained.
The biggest and most significant, lasting and memorable achievement of NN under the noble leadership of Dr Bhujanga Shetty is KIDROP, Karnataka Integrated Assisted Diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity, a mission to prevent child blindness in Karnataka. KIDROP, initiated by Dr Shetty, is India’s first public private partnership, department of health and family welfare, Government of Karnataka, for preventing RoP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) blindness in rural India.
According to Dr Shetty, over 6,000 infants were screened and over 600 treated at two months of age or even less. Almost 100 per cent of all the children born in government hospitals were treated free under KIDROP. “What brings me satisfaction and contentment is that under KIDROP, over 30,000 children were screened in a door-to-door campaign programme in rural districts of South Karnataka under the Pavagada Pediatric Eye Disease Study (PPEDS) that too free of cost. When I could bring relief on the faces of these innocent patients, I felt happy and contented. I thank god for giving me this opportunity to serve the people. Nar seva is Narayana seva is what I believe in,” this soft-spoken and unassuming Dr Shetty said, unable to conceal the moist in his eyes.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF ELEPHANTINE ACHIEVEMENTS
■ In October 2010, Narayana Nethralaya’s KIDROP was named the world’s largest single hospital managed ROP network by using Tele-Ophthalmology. (Sources Clarity MSI, USA).
■ The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) publication India Perspectives wrote in October 2010 that KIDROP is a ‘unique initiative to reach the unreached in the rural areas of India”.
■ The software application developed with NN for KIDROP was named one of the Top Ten Medical Innovations.
■ NN has already trained teams in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Rajasthan has recently approved KIDROP model for implementation.
■ The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and 10 states have been proposed for an All India Expansion of KIDROP during the year 2013-14.
■ Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), has lauded NN’s KIDROP as a landmark project and described NN as ‘a precious gift to a premature child’.
■ NN is a popular hub for international students and the institute has a very popular short-term fellowships that draws applicants from countries like Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
One among cardinal principles adopted by NN is that no child is turned down eye care for want of financial resources. “About 10,000 children in the age group of 0-16 have been screened for eye problems from urban slums in Bengaluru. All those needing glasses, therapy and surgery were provided care free of cost. Over 300 children have undergone free eye surgeries under the PPEDS,” explained Dr Shetty. One among 53 global initiatives of the WHO and the international agency for prevention of blindness is childhood blindness under Vision 2020 titled “The Right to Sight”. Dr Shetty says that unfortunately childhood blindness has not received the emphasis it deserves either from the government or from the non-government agencies. All these years, the thrust and concentration have been on adult cataract services,” he added.
Asked about the need to subject the children of the age of three and eight for dye check up, Dr Shetty said, “Eighty per cent of the eye growth takes place within the age of three and hundred per cent growth will be completed by the age of eight. If in any case, there are any indications of eyes getting problematic in future, it can be rectified at the tender age of four or even till the age of seven. Otherwise, it is not possible. It is for this reason I insist that eye check up for children at the age of 3 and 8 must be made mandatory.” In today’s “I-Me-Myself” atmosphere charged with materialism and consumerism, Dr Bhujanga Shetty comes as a whiff of fresh air who knows only “Eye” and not “I” and whose only motto is to “serve the people” with an “Eye” on future generation.
By SA Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru