The first eye bank in the government sector in the entire southern region was inaugurated at Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital on Wednesday. The facility, launched by state minister for health and family welfare, C Laxma Reddy, was developed at a cost of Rs 1 crore and has a fully air conditioned post-operative ward and ambulances equipped for transporting cornea.Now, the cost of corneal transplant surgery ranges between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh, and is done at private sector hospitals only. With the launch of the eye bank, the health department will make corneal transplant facility available to poor patients free of cost.“Offering these services in the government sector at reduced cost is a big step in eye care in the state. We will be offering transplants free of cost to patients,” Reddy said during the inauguration.About 10% cases of blindness (corneal) is curable with corneal transplant surgery. Dr Ravinder Goud, superintendent, SD Eye Hospital, said, “With this facility in place, we can now take corneal donations and transplant it. The required infrastructure and a team of trained senior doctors is already in place.”As per figures of the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), only 45,000 corneas are donated every year in India as against a demand of 2 lakh. Also, around 25,000 new patients with corneal blindness are added to the waiting list each year.Of these donations, only 30-40% are utilized due to delay in harvesting and storing at an eye bank. Donated corneas need to be implanted within 24 hours or stored at an eye bank where it could be preserved for only up to 14 days.Only 3,000 corneal donations are recorded in the state each year, while the demand is at least three times.
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