Melghat’s ‘1 rupee doc’ raising funds for hosp, squint surgeries

Nagpur: Nurturing their childhood dreams, two friends have set on a mission to work for the betterment of the tribals in Melghat.
Not allured by the high paying jobs or medical practice in cities, general physician Dr Ravindra Kolhe shifted to Bairagarh village in Melghat’s Dharni block in 1989 and started out by charging only 1 as consultation fee. Even today, his consultation fee is just 2.

Dr Kolhe’s thesis on malnutrition in Melghat was one of the first documentations that drew the world’s attention towards the problem in the region.

Dr Kolhe’s ophthalmologist friend Dr Premchand Pandit, currently the civil surgeon of Buldhana district, regularly keeps visiting Melghat to offer his services. He has till now conducted more than 150 surgeries free of cost.

Dr Kolhe and Dr Pandit founded The Prayer Eye Hospital in Kolupur, 12km from Dharni in 2016. Funds received by The Prayer Multipurpose Society trust were used for the construction of the hospital. “We haven’t been able to run the hospital full-time due to unavailability of eye surgeon and Dr Pandit’s busy schedule. Surgeries are being conducted intermittently as and when experts visit. Dr Pandit will soon assume the reins of the hospital,” confesses Dr Kolhe.

During Diwali last year, Dr Kolhe started a crowdfunding initiative on the internet with a target of 30 lakh for procuring eye surgery instruments including an autorefractometer, operative microscope and a phaco machine. While an autorefractometer was donated by a company, the latter two have been purchased through an NGO.

General physician Dr Ravindra Kolhe says, “Through crowdfunding, we have received Rs23 lakh, while the cost of both the instruments is Rs19 lakh. We are hoping to make up for the deficit in some months through more donations.”.

Talking about the need for the machines, Dr Kolhe pointed out that small incision surgeries conducted until now require patients to stay at the facility overnight. With the availability of the advanced instruments, patients will be able to go home within an hour, he said.

Dr Kolhe has also been working to raise money for free-of-cost squint surgeries, scheduled to take place during a weeklong camp in December. The camp will be conducted by Dr Madhusudhan Jawhar of Hingna-based Netra Sudhar Sangh. “Of the overall births in the country, nearly 3% of the population suffers from abnormal alignment of one or both eyes (squint). Here, many girls haven’t been able to marry because of the condition and face societal ridicule,” he said.

“We have been told that we are structurally sound for the camp, but we need to raise money for surgeries to reduce the burden on the doctors conducting the camp,” he said. In India, a squint surgery costs anywhere around Rs50,000.

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