Outreach builds community trust
Garnett Memorial Eye Hospital
Mettupalayam, Tamil Nadu State
Community outreach is not new to the staff of
Garnett Memorial Eye Hospital. After observing that most people in obvious need
were not accessing help though the hospital was conveniently located, the staff
modified the traditional approach several years ago. Rather than employ
previously trained technicians or community service workers, the hospital staff
hired and trained locals as a means of reaching those in the greatest need.
The newly recruited community health workers were
provided with a six-week training course covering everything from interviewing
skills, the basics of eye disease and diagnosing symptoms, to an overview of
how the eye care system works and financial assistance.
These community health workers go door-to-door
throughout the surrounding communities, effectively bringing the hospital's
diagnostic service to the doorstep. The health workers often must overcome the
suspicions of householders who take them for salespeople or con artists. The
workers are persistent and frequently call at a house several times before
gaining the occupants' trust. The health workers have a tremendous sense of
pride in their responsibilities and are strengthening the hospitals' and
Operation Eyesight's reputation.
The Garnett hospital has noticed an increase in the
number of patients since launching the community outreach program. By employing
and training local citizens, Operation Eyesight is providing a strong identity
for the hospital and an opportunity for people to comfortably access services.
When patients are made aware of a sight-saving
treatment, they are often transformed with relief and joy. One worker tells of
an incredibly disheartened man going blind with cataracts. Told surgery would
restore his sight, he literally collapsed in tears. Imagine – vision restored,
a life renewed and a family strengthened. What a rich legacy for Operation
These outreach practices continued when we launched
the hospital-based community eye health program in 2010. The program serves the
people in the surrounding administration division of Satyamangalam.
By strongly influencing the eye-health seeking
behaviour in these communities, the program significantly contributes to
the prevention of avoidable blindness in this region. Integrating primary eye
care into primary health services also means that the community has a
long-term, lasting model for controlling avoidable blindness. In essence, the
hospital-based community eye health program gives more people access to quality
eye care and helps develop a system that will be available to the community for
years to come.