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INDIA HAS A HIGHER SKILL SET IN EYE TREATMENTS COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES.

INDIA HAS A HIGHER SKILL SET IN EYE TREATMENTS COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES.

Col. (Retd) M. Deshpande, Chief Medical Director – Poona Blind Men’s Association’s H. V. Desai Hospital – Pune. He has been on a journey from being a common student like any of us to getting an opportunity to join the Indian Army and later joining the hospital at the early stage when it was just a 2-room hospital to now a renowned hospital. Below are some Awards/Honours won by him:
  • Vishita Seva Medal (VSM) by President of India in 1992, for high order in eyecare to armed forces
  • Asia Pacific academy Ophthalmologists for outstanding service in prevention of Blindness award, Busan, Korea, 2012
  • Best Clinical Presentation Trophy, 1987
  • TNOA Dr G Venkat Swamy Community Ophthalmology Award, 2015
  • Dhanvantary Award NCP Cell, 2009
  • Maharashtra Ex-serviceman League Award, 1995

He has also been the President of VISION 2020 ‘the right to sight India’ 2011-2014.

H. V. Desai Hospital which is a ONE STOP CENTRE for vision-related treatments. Having a chance to get into a conversation with Col. (Retd) M. Deshpande, our Editor-in-Chief, Siddharth Salecha tries to know more about Col. Deshpande and also how the hospital has always been a step ahead to prevent blindness and what challenges they have to face.

Interview:

Tell us about the founder and the hospital?

This hospital belongs to Poona Blind Men’s Association which works for the rehabilitation of the blinds for more than 56 years now. One person who should be named here is Mr Niranjan Pandya, was the founder of complete project PBMA as well as the Hospital. He was very passionate about blindness prevention as he himself was complete blind, he was in the 10th grade when he lost his eyes. Preventing blindness had become his only goal to serve and started off with organising eye camps and activities related to preventing blindness in nearby vicinity and villages. When he came across the news of me getting retired from the army, he approached me and we together started the journey since then. Back then the hospital had just 2 beds, and today H.V. Desai Eye Hospital stands as one of the renowned across the country. Today we do almost 35000 surgeries per year of all types from babies to adult, from cataract to all the major surgeries. Today we are a teaching institute for post graduates and a training centre for Government doctors, with a centre for various para medical learnings which collaborate with NGO’s to conduct programmes and skill transfers. Community eye care is one of our paths to great deeds. Under this we cover all possible districts of Maharashtra i.e. Pune, Solapur, Kolhapur, Satara, Raigad, Ahmednagar etc. We scan the patients for needed treatments and eye care and we get those patients to our hospitals, screen them and conduct treatments or surgeries whatever is needed on our own cost. This practice is done on a regular basis, till date we have done more than 5 lac such surgeries out of which 3,50,000 surgeries were completely free of cost and rest were charge a minimal fee. Our hospital is facilitated with world class equipment, treatments and surgeries. We also have a branch for eye cancer which is convenient for poor people as all fees are taken care of by authorities.

What made up your mind to join the army and serve our country?

I would say that the opportunity came to me and I grabbed it. When I was studying in the medical college people had a sense of bravado, as that was the year 1962 during the Indo-china war and we all wanted to serve the country. One fine day the Army commission came to our college to interview and recruit students, and many of us got interviewed out only 4 got selected which included me. I joined the army as soon as I completed my college.

What was your journey like, from being a student to being able to serve the nation?

I joined in 1964, then immediately we faced a war in 1965 with Pakistan and was sent to Western front Pakistan from Pune with the infantry and artillery unit which was a part of the front-line battle. I was in the prepared mindset of “Anything can happen anytime” and continued to serve our injured soldiers, treat them, and send them back to Base for further treatment. On the last of war, it was announced cease fire before scheduled time and a thought came to my mind, I was …. I survived so far but if I die, for whom am I dying? I did not get the answer, but if I must I should die as a part of my duty. Later, in 1971 I was in Poonch- Kashmir, and then came back and did my ophthalmology and was posted in Delhi. I had a very tough boss at that time but today I have his picture in my prayer room as whatever I am today is because of his learnings and discipline. For some years I had taken a study leave to learn more about retina, squint, etc. in Maulana Azad Delhi college and spent 1 year with Dr Patnaik a retina specialist, and then came back as I was to be posted in Delhi or Pune. I have been a part of a commando course too, which was one the toughest course in the army, but I ranked first place. I also joined the famous 60-para unit of the Indian army which has received many medals. And became para trooper then I was posted to various Army Hospitals as eye surgeon.

How is India coping up with new technologies?

Most important in any industry like ours is MANAGEMENT, and that is documentation that has now come up with electronic medical records as right from the beginning to the end is paperless. Before we used to have big case files for each patient which was a difficult job to maintain and not misplace case files with other patients, but today you can say we just have to manage a small chip for each patient and we can retain it for years. If I have to tell you about India, we are at a level to be compared with foreign countries in terms of technologies as we have a huge experience in comparison to them, particularly in cataract, retina and glaucoma. We definitely have a higher skill set compared to other countries and so treatments here can be done much efficiently and are cost friendly.

How has COVID-19 affected H.V. Desai hospital?

Covid-19 is a global calamity that will change the world and it may affect the economy. Luckily, for us COVID has changed nothing due to our excellent management headed by Mr. Nitin Desai and come what may we will continue to work and help people and not get affected by the lockdown. Till May we have treated only emergency cases but our hospital was not closed even for a single day. Of course, like everybody our performance is 50%, and our revenue generation would be 65% due to COVID 19, but next year we hope the uncertainty is no more and we perform even better than before.

At what capacity is the hospital running since lockdown? What measures have you been taking?

The hospital currently is running with 50% of people as we have duties in 3 shifts where 1/3 doctors and other staff come in each day but surgery numbers have gone down from 150-200 surgeries daily to 15-20. Hoping to see it rise in coming days. We are taking all necessary precautions like social distancing and temperature scans. All the patients are asked a few questions like their past history to understand the symptoms and accordingly we let them in or guide them to the physicians if any COVID symptoms are reflected. We don’t let more than 2 people stand together in any areas like waiting areas or lobby. We get the eyes checked too if anyone found with red eyes, we guide them to the physicians. If you look back, the 1st patient to die with COVID-19 was an eye surgeon in china. We have to be very careful before touching the eyes of the patients and take full precautions for conducting the above.

What are the famous myths about eye health?

In our country, every other person is an advisor. Hence, take advice from the field expert and follow its treatment rather than taking guidance from those who know nothing about it. There are famous advisories like putting eye drops or solutions in the eye, you shouldn’t do anything without an expert ophthalmologist advice. Eyes naturally have eye cleaner’s tears film present in the form of water, mucus and fat which keeps the integrity of the cornea, and is not a plastic container which requires cleaning…ha-ha. Such eye drop solutions is nothing but marketing and selling strategies of some companies. Also, there are famous myths like doing yoga and eye exercises for better vision! Human eyes move about 100,000 times in a day! What better exercise can heal or give you better vision? Please DO NOT believe in the myths and rumours around you, instead spend time to search for the right specialist for your problem …

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