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Eye care boon in Andhra Pradesh

The third phase of the Dr YSR Kanti Velugu programme – an Andhra Pradesh initiative providing eye care – commenced earlier this week and comes as a boon for the state’s elders.

In the third phase of the scheme, approximately 57 lakh people above the age of sixty will receive eye care free of charge. “Free eye-screening tests will be conducted at all village secretariats,” Chief Minister Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy said as he launched the third phase at the S. T. B. C. College Ground in Kurnool. “Surgeries for shortlisted patients would be performed at the existing eleven teaching hospitals across the state from March 1st. The government has allocated Rs 560 crore towards the programme.” 

The Dr YSR Kanti Velugu programme was launched on World Sight Day last year. At the time, the Chief Minister said “there are about 2.12 crore people in the state with [eye] ailments and eighty percent of these can be avoided with precaution. If the problems are not detected in time and necessary measures are not taken to address them, they could lead to total blindness.” The Chief Minister’s Office outlined that “in all, 1145 primary health centres, 195 community health centres, 28 area hospitals, thirteen district hospitals, eleven tertiary hospitals (including two regional eye hospitals), 115 vision centres, thirteen District Blindness Control Societies and 117 registered NGO hospitals are being involved in the programme.” 

The programme will be conducted over the course of six phases across two-and-a-half years. The scheme has already witnessed success in providing eye care, particularly among young people. The first phase covered 6,615,467 children and identified 436,979 children with vision problems, The Hindu reports. Subsequently, the second phase identified 134,252 children with vision problems, distributed 56,767 sets of spectacles, and referred 77,485 cases for evaluation. 

Just one in five Indians receive regular eye checkups, it was reported last year. The country is home to some sixty million people affected by some degree of visual impairment, making programmes to expand access to eye care and treatments for those affected by vision problems essential. 

Highlighting the need for accessible eye care on the occasion of World Sight Day last year, World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “it is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses. People who need eye care must be able to receive quality interventions without suffering financial hardship. Including eye care in national health plans and essential packages of care is an important part of every country’s journey towards universal health coverage.” 

As he launched the third phase of the eye care scheme, the Chief Minister spoke of the need to bolster public health infrastructure in the state more broadly, through the Nahru-Nedu programme. “The state, as of now, has only eleven teaching hospitals,” he said. “The government plans to add sixteen more teaching hospitals across the state to ensure that doctors and medical staff are available at all times across all regions of the state. 

“Under the Nadu-Nedu programme, the government will spend Rs 15,337 crore to renovate and upgrade existing hospitals besides setting up new ones across the state to ensure world-class medical facilities are available to the poorest of the poor.”

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