COVID-19 SECOND WAVE: HOW WE CONTINUED OUR WORK IN WEST BENGAL

Orbis has collaborated with USAID to bring the community, especially children, of West Bengal sustainable primary eye care services.

He Orbis-usaid-Susrut Green Vision Center Initiative

Through its partner hospital, Susrut Eye Foundation & Research Centre, Orbis decided to extend its ongoing mission in West Bengal by expanding the hospital’s primary eye care network.

Orbis brought forth the concept of Green Vision Center (GVC) to provide a responsible route to provision of primary eye care to the community. The initiative is part of Orbis’s goal to further equip and strengthen vision centers in areas where electric supply is not reliable and intermittent.

GVCs are established considering the following points: convenient location directly within the community, optimal platform for screening children with eye diseases at an early stage, provide remedial measures, timely referrals, use of digital data management software, less consumption of paper, use of LEDs and less power consuming equipment, renewable solar energy system. Additionally, under the project undertaken with the USAID grant, we will also empower women to contribute socially and economically to their communities as trained health care providers addressing local eye care needs. In that regard, electric bikes for transport needs of the women Vision Technicians have also been made.

The GVC concept helps create permanent access to primary eye care services for the children and communities at an affordable cost. Further, GVC fees for adult eye services will help to subsidize pediatric eye care.

The Covid-19 Second Wave and Green Vision Centers

Orbis-USAID-Susrut Green Vision Centers

1

Bharatpur - I

2

Hariharpara

3

Nabagram

4

Beldanga

5

Raninagar

The five vision centers that we had hoped to run this year were marred by, firstly, West Bengal elections and then by the COVID second wave which led to a prolonged and unanticipated lockdown in the state.

However, the Susrut team under the project did not give up. They relentlessly tried to work out a safe and effective plan to continue the groundwork leading to the opening of the five vision centers.

The Hariharpara and Bharatpur 1 GVCs were successfully inaugurated even as the elections made it difficult for many businesses to function in their regular rhythm, let alone the GVCs. Subsequently, the Beldanga GVC too was opened post elections and just around the lockdown. How did they do it?



Working in Collaboration With Community-based Organizations

During the elections, Susrut, under the leadership of Dr RC Paul, Secretary, Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre, leveraged its network of community-based organizations to continue basic work for identifying GVCs and, subsequently, renovating the GVCs and installing equipment into them. This led to successful opening of the first two GVCs in Hariharpara and Bharatpur 1 where over 200 eye screenings have been done so far.

Left: GVC launch at Bharatpur 1 | Right GVC launch at Hariharpara

The local police authorities also helped in planning and preparation of opening the rest of the two GVCs around Berhampore. Restrictions in mobility imposed because of the lockdown had hit the work of the project team members. It was crucial to stick to the earlier planned timeline. We are aware of the backlogs in service delivery the eye care community will be facing once the pandemic and the novel coronavirus die down which makes our mission ever so important.

The team did not give up. They decided to approach the local NGOs to continue basic work for the GVCs to open on time. They took necessary permissions from senior police officials at the local police department to continue moving around the catchment area using the hospital’s ambulance to setup remaining GVCs in Nabagram and Raninagar.

Awareness Raising and Community Health Workers

While they tried to re-strategize and collaborate, the Orbis partner hospital, with the help of the ambulance, took stock of the situation on-ground. Running the already open GVCs looked like a challenge given the lockdown and public fear of contracting the virus. They spoke to local NGOs and decided to work towards starting a unique two-pronged awareness raising initiative. The village to village visits by Community Health Workers seemed promising to primarily, ensure public faith in availability of safe eye health services at the GVCs and, secondly, to understand the community’s eye health needs, one village at a time. While this is undertaken, the hospital hopes to open the rest of the two GVCs shortly.

Preparedness Is Key

Given the unprecedented times, it is difficult to continue the crucial work that is in the hands of the eye care community. However, it did not deter the Susrut team from finding a way out and continue the good work that they had initiated in April 2021. Before we can really have the community come to the GVCs to access services, we need to be prepared. The GVCs established are COVID protocol compliant, they are well-equipped. Field work for installation of solar system and their subsequent installation has been done. It is only a matter of time until the lockdown is lifted and we are ready to serve the community.

Note: All healthworkers involved in the work done for the GVCs are fully vaccinated.

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