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State’s performance poor in cornea transplant

Eye donors can call toll free number: 1919

KARNATAKA has been a poor performer as far as cornea transplants are concerned, even though it is one of the high prevalence states for blindness.

The prevalence is said to be 1.9 per cent in the State. Also, in the last five years, the State has been able to fare well and achieve more than 50 per cent of its target set by the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) of the Union government, for cornea transplant, only in 2009-10.

In comparison, Tamil Nadu has consistently over achieved its annual targets and even Andhra Pradesh fared better last year.

Dr V Raju, joint director, ophthalmology of NPCB, said an incentive of Rs 1,000 for retrieval of each eye ball is given to hospitals. He felt reluctance and lack of awareness among the people to pledge their eyes was a major reason for the State’s poor performance.

Dr V K Tewari, health education officer of NPCB, also blamed lack of awareness for the State’s poor performance. Also, close to 50 per cent of the retrieved eye balls are discarded, as they cannot be transplanted.

Transportation delay, delay in people informing the eye banks after the donor’s death and cause of death are the other reasons, Dr Tewari said. The State has 37 registered eye banks.

SMS to motivate donors

NPCB is now using technology to motivate people to donate their eyes. It is taking the SMS route to get people to come forward and pledge their eyes. The SMS will provide receivers the MTNL toll free number 1919, which a person can contact to pledge his or her eyes at any hour of the day.
According to Tewari, the text messages have been sent across in the four metros and other big cities, including Bangalore.

The initiative is part of the 26th National Eye donation Fortnight which began on August 25 and ends on September 8. “When a person calls the toll free number, the call is immediately transferred to the eye bank close to where the person has called from,” he said.

Cornea transplants in State

Year    Target    Achievement
2007-08    5,000    2,356
2008-09    5,500    3,850
2009-10    5,500    4,100
2010-11    5,500    2,609

(Published in Deccan Herald on 7th September, 2011)

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