For the past seven years, an eye specialist and his eye clinic have been the reason for the joy for many village dwellers of Assam. The modest appearance of the clinic might be deluding at first sight. But once you see the long queue of patients eagerly waiting for their turn, you’ll understand why this place has been a ray of hope for the people of Assam.
Dr Parveez Ubed, an ophthalmologist has literally ‘changed the way’ people see. Since 2011, his ERC clinic has been on a mission to provide inclusive, affordable and accessible eye care to all. People across all ages, genders and economic backgrounds have been knocking its door in pursuit of a clearer vision.
In 2007, after completing his graduation, Dr Parveez began working in the civil hospital in Jorhat. There, he began to notice a large number of cataract patients coming to the hospital every week. He recalls that among those patients, even people with lower vision didn’t opt for corrective measures due to the lack of proper facilities in general hospitals to conduct cataract surgeries. And, those that did it was really expensive, so most people from lower-income groups could never even imagine coming out of their darkness.
Without any prior experience in running a social enterprise, he decided to give it a try. After almost four years, in 2011, he was able to set up the ERC Clinic. Later in 2013, he received a sizable amount of investments that helped ERC to set up the vision centres in Assam-Jorhat, Borholla and Nakachari.
“Assam is lagging when it comes to eye care services, and the bulk of cataract patients are being denied the gift of sight because of a lack of resources or affordability. I wanted to bridge that gap and being a doctor dedicating my life for such a cause was all I could think of,” added Dr Parveez Ubed.
Now, Dr Parveez and his 150-member team have four hubs, four mobile vans and two vision centres across Assam, that has helped more than 2 lakh patients so far.
The ERC works on a hub and spoke model, where the cities or district headquarters have a hub hospital with all the surgical facilities. Each of these hubs is connected to four to five spoke/satellite centres run by optometrists with the assistance of ophthalmologists. Spokes provide basic eye care in neighbouring rural areas. ERC also has a group of vision assistants who go from door-to-door, screening people, and building awareness aiming at extending eyecare facilities to the most remote parts of the state. In addition to this, the mobile unit also travels all across the state conducting 15 to 20 free eye care camps in every district a month.
“A total of 28,7000 people have benefitted from our work. Till date, we have conducted over 10,000 operations and have provided 88,000 eyeglasses to the patients who needed it, informed Dr Parveez, who charges a fee of just Rs 50 for consultation. The cost of eye surgeries in ERC ranges from Rs 1000 to Rs 20000 and is inclusive of travel, food and accommodation of the patients. Also, one can get eyeglasses ranging from Rs 250 onwards from the clinic.
For Dr Parveez what matters are the people, not the money. “They deserve to see, and as a doctor, it’s my duty to use my skills to the best and help them. There comes a day when we work towards something that makes us happy. I was lucky to have found that out rather early,” he says.
Source: The Better India, NorthEast Now.