Aravind Eye Care Vision Centers: A Review

Arvind Eye Care Vision center, Papyrofix
Having read the book, “Infinite Vision”, I was able to appreciate Dr.V’s pristine heart, compassion, generosity, and skill vicariously. I wanted to, however, get that firsthand experience and visualize the business model with my own eyes. My father took my brother and I to the Aravind eye care hospital in Madurai where we were not only able to meet different people of different professions associated with the hospital but also meet people of different generations. Such interactions allowed us to expand our knowledge regarding Aravind’s successful past, current status, and future endeavors. It also enabled us to garner a greater, but not infinite, vision of their famous eye camps, otherwise known in this period of time as vision camps.

During our stay in Madurai, we went to visit a vision camp located on the outskirts of Madurai. The heat, fuelled with pollution and congestion from the city’s traffic, impersonated our shadows and followed us wherever we went. It, however, became irrelevant when we entered the vision center. It was small, yet, adequate. The reception was indeed amenable with the receptionist being very amiable. She had this undying smile, more contagious than that of the germs and viruses the patients brought in. Although treatments and diagnoses were ongoing, the atmosphere that the center displayed was unlike that of any other hospital setting. The patients were willing to partake in conversations and smiles were ubiquitous. Complaints regarding costs and treatment were minimal and the general majority were willing and able to partake in the necessary steps for diagnosis, screening and/or treatments.

We were invited to the room, in which the patients interacted with doctors. Now, this was something I had never seen before. There was a simple computer set up to which a webcam was attached. This enabled the patients to consult the doctors of the Aravind eye care hospital in Madurai. Moreover, the device, which the nurses used to examine patients, had an interface capable of connecting to a camera. This was used to take photographs of the eye and send them over via internet to the hospital in Madurai for better analysis. This ensured the credibility of the diagnosis, which is of course vital for the incoming patients, who are generally pretty unaware. It was nice to see the center take initiatives to maximize the potential of the current advancements in technology. The doctors and nurses were very friendly to the patients uplifting their spirits.

At the same time, however, there weren’t any apparent appraisals or obvious gratitude. I had expected the patients to depict appreciation because of the close proximity of the vision center to their respective homes as opposed to the main hospital in the city of Madurai. Moreover, I also thought that the low costs as well as the individual, personal treatment would appeal to the patients. However, the patients weren’t too explicit with their feedback regarding the healthcare provision. This was intriguing because Dr.V’s main aim was to give aid to those unnecessarily suffering and so one would anticipate and expect positive feedback from those suffering.

We sat down to interview a couple. We were reluctant to accept their standards of living due to inevitable comparisons with that of our own, but they were fine. That itself was inspiring. The woman had worms in her eyes. If that sounds horrifying, then the procedure in which she obtained those worms would sound, inexplicably, horrendous. She was milking cows and just happened to have worms splutter into her eyes. The sight of worms gives me shivers. To have worms literally in sight (pun intended) clearly indicates a greater insight into how fortunate we are to have such lifestyles. Coming back from the slight digression, that woman had come to the vision center for diagnosis and treatment, of which both were successful. The woman had a red eye readily indicative of the incident.

That she was able to be treated without complications was good to hear and demonstrated the proficiency of the vision center, or rather, the doctors and nurses in the vision center. It was nice to see that service is still given much importance. However, I believe that there is a slight cost for that service. A cost, which makes me speculate the true intention of the service. A cost, which makes me reflect and evaluate upon Dr.V’s initial idea. The cost for the service is minimal and probably insignificant to the majority. However, service should not only be available to the majority. It should also be equally, and most importantly, be directed towards those who consider the cost to be significant. In their case, for example, the man mentioned that the fee he had to pay for the service was just 5 rupees less than his daily income. Thus, this cost turns out to be a significant portion of his income, which should not be the case when treating needless blindness. As a result, they didn’t portray genuine happiness. They did, however, meticulously agree with us that the close proximity of the vision center to their home was advantageous.

 In order to further justify certain assumptions regarding the current model in practice, we interviewed a few other patients. We spoke another couple, of which, the man was the head of a village. They were financially better off and held some prestige. The woman was recovering from an eye operation and had encountered some problems. They were very pleased with the treatment provided by the vision center and had very little to complain about. They, too, chose to visit the vision center due to its close proximity. The cost wasn’t too much of a burden on them and possibly even benefited them. The interesting thing was that they had preferred another hospital, to operate the eye, for financial reasons. Apparently, the hospital they went to offered to operate her eye for free. They also mentioned that the hospital they went to was in a more convenient location as opposed to Aravind eye care hospital, which is located in the city. This exemplifies the presence of competition, to which Aravind may eventually and inevitably surrender to. It may also justify the recent attachment of prices to treatment. The vision centers are currently advantageous to people not because of financial feasibility but because of its close proximity to small villages as well as proficiency with regards to skill level.

Speaking of costs, we encountered a father who had brought his son for an eye checkup. The price of the medication was 30 rupees more than the amount the father had brought. Thus, he was rejected the medicine and left without it. It was pretty astonishing to see since the little boy had come all the way to the center after having missed school. I didn’t expect this. The receptionist, however, advised the father to bring his family next time for a complete eye checkup thereby disallowing possibilities for future problems in his family. This shows that the intention for wellness is there but is being shadowed by the constant need to withstand the financial pressures.

It could possibly be deduced that the vision centers are generally able to handle and deal with cases that would generally be classified as complicated. There is no doubt with regards to the skills of the nurses and doctors, which can be attributed to the excellence in training. The only difference between what I had learned about the vision camps and what I saw was the slight change in motive behind the service.

For Papyrofix;
BY: Kripa Krishnan

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