Srinagar: Two years after approval and 12 years after proposal, the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO) is nowhere in sight despite fund allocation and an identified site.
The specialised programmes for prevention and reversal of blindness that were expected to run from this multi-crore institute stand suspended due to the delay.
In 2019, J&K government approved the 100-bedded RIO to be set up by the Department of Ophthalmology, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar with the initial funding of Rs 9 crore and a Rs 5 crore annual fund.
The institute is planned to house an eye bank and set the eye donation and transplant programme in Kashmir in motion.
The RIO is part of the network of such centers set up by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MohFW) meant to provide state-of-art facilities for prevention of blindness under the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
The proposal for RIO had initially been submitted in 2009 and had already suffered a delay of a decade when it was approved two years ago.
The building of Kashmir Nursing Home (KNH) at Gupkar Srinagar was identified as the location for the center.
However, since June 2019, when the proposal was approved, no work has been done on the RIO.
In April 2020, the KNH was designated as a Covid Care Center and for the past two years, the hospital has become a recovery center for mildly-sick patients.
Currently, when most of the hospitals that had been labelled as Covid-19 designated facilities have been allowed to resume their routine services, KNH continues to admit patients.
As on date, 13 patients are recovering from SARS-CoV2 infection at the facility.
A senior ophthalmologist said the eye donation programme in Kashmir had failed to take off due to unavailability of a facility to house the paraphernalia for the purpose.
“We have manpower and skills and there definitely will be some people willing to come forward to donate eyes but because we are already pressed hard for space at SMHS Hospital, there is no way we can start it,” he said.
Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at GMC Srinagar, Prof Sabiya Rashid said that it was due to Covid-19 that no progress was made on RIO.
She said that the department had started an eye-clinic at KNH and every week, ‘some doctors’ provide consultation services at the location.
“It is confined to refraction and basic service only,” she said.
Prof Rashid said that the GMC had written to J&K government seeking direction on resuming work on setting up of RIO in KNH.
“We are awaiting the decision of the government,” she said.
The GMC Srinagar had in 2019 announced that the building would be renovated and refurbished to suit the requirements of the RIO.