Govt to soon formulate comprehensive eye care package for visually impaired: Economic Advisor, MoH&FW

New Delhi: Mr Nilambuj Sharan, Economic Advisor, MoH&FW, and Joint Secretary, National Programme for Control of Blindness & Visual Impairment (NPCB &VI), GoI today said, “COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, but it has been particularly tough for the visually impaired people. The government is preparing a comprehensive package for eye care services, which is mandatory at a time of such severe crisis.”

Addressing ‘National Conclave: Spotlight on Visually Impaired in the wake of COVID-19′ organized by FICCI, Mr Sharan said, “Under the National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment, there has been a considerable decline in the number of cases and the country is close to achieving WHO’s goal of reducing it to 0.3% of the total population by 2020.” Under this initiative, we are conducting 65 lakh cataract surgeries every year, which is the leading cause of blindness in the country, he added.

Speaking on the accessibility of non-COVID treatment during the pandemic, Mr Sharan said, “The pandemic has shaken the non-COVID healthcare services in the country, however, the government is providing specific guidelines to the state governments to resume the healthcare services in a phased manner.”

Dr Narottam Puri, Advisor-FICCI Health Services Committee said, “India was the first country to launch The National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment in 1976 and was successful in reducing the numbers to a considerable extent.” He further said that the delay in the treatment caused due to the pandemic will bring a huge obstacle to the blindness prevention program, hence the Conclave on vision control organized by FICCI, will turn the spotlight on the critical issues and challenges faced by the patients and providers.”

Mr Sanjay Murdeshwar, Managing Director, Novartis India said, “COVID-19 fears may be causing people to ignore medical emergencies as patients are afraid to come to the hospital due to the pandemic.” This crisis has not only strengthened the understanding of healthcare needs in India but also has forced changes in the medical ecosystem, he added.

Dr Phanindra Babu Nukella, CEO Vision 2020 & Country Chair IAPB, said, “The lockdown has made life harsher for the blind. Those with visual disabilities often need companions or assistance services to do their daily work, which can make social distancing a challenge.”

Dr Taraprasad Das, Regional Chair for South East Asia International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) said, “To reach the last milestone in the eye care, we need the ?High Tech and High Touch’ approach.”

Dr Ratna Devi, CEO & CO-Founder of Dakshama Health and Education, said, “Fear of contracting the virus has led elderly patients to prolong medication and postpone surgery follow-ups, resulting in further complications. We need to address the issue and help people come forward to seek treatment.” Communication channels need to be developed between a doctor and a patient which will help build the trust factor, she said.

Dr Mahipal S Sachdev, President, All India Ophthalmology Society said, “Our aim should be to provide digital eye care services to the remote areas of the country. Patients have to be educated not to ignore the visual problems as it can lead to irreversible blindness.”

Col (Dr) Sanjay Mishra, HOD, Army Base Hospital, New Delhi said, “Military Hospitals have always provided the highest quality care to the patients but there is a marked reduction in patients coming to general ophthalmology clinic during COVID, even in Military Hospitals.” We are trying our best to create awareness through regular tele-ophthalmology consultations, he said.

Dr Raja Narayanan, General Secretary Vitreo Retina Society of India (VRSI) said, “To stop the spread of the deadly virus, eyecare is very important but people are not opting for treatment due to the virus.” He also mentioned that India lacks proper insurance when it comes to eye care and this needs to be resolved immediately.

The webinar was attended by eminent panellists including Dr Vishali Gupta, Professor, Advanced Eye Centre, PGIMER Chandigarh, Mr ET Mohammed Basheer, MP and Former Education Minister, Kerala, and Mr Srivathsan Aparajithan, Managing Director, Intent Health Technologies.

Mr Chanakya Misra, Business Head, Novartis India delivered the vote of thanks.

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