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There's no dearth of people willing to donate their eyes in India but more transplants can't be conducted due to a shortage of eye bank technicians and eye donation counsellors, experts say. "India ranks high when it comes to people who pledge their eyes. But not many corneal transplants are performed due to a shortage of technicians and counsellors," said Tim Schottman, Chief Global Officer, Sight Life USA (the world's largest eye bank association) at the fourth Annual National Continuing Medicial Education Conference on Eye Banking organised by the Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI).
With around 1.1 million people afflicted with bilateral blindness (loss of eyesight in both eyes) and around 5.6 million suffering from lack of vision in one eye, corneal transplant has become a necessity in India. "The percentage of transplants or grafts has gone up from 10 to 40 percent. We are aiming to touch the global target of 60 percent, said Samar K. Basak, vice president, EBAI. In-order to achieve this target, eye banks all over India have collaborated with Sight Life to train personnel. "So far this training has already started in Chennai, Delhi, West Bengal and few other places. Gradually we will cover all the major cities," said Basak, who also serves as the medical director of Prova Eye Bank, Disha Eye Hospitals & Research Centre near Kolkata, the second-largest eye bank organisation in India.
India is placed in the top three countries with respect to eye donation, but since the donation is done after the donor is dead, there is need to ensure that families do not relent. "At present there are 700 eye banks in India, out of which only 150 do transplants and out of that 150, only 25 meet the standards," said Schottman. A major hurdle that keeps these eye banks from meeting international standards is the lack of accreditation. "We have applied to the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) to provide the accreditations and we hope to achieve all our targets by 2020," said Basak.
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