August 9, 2019
It is an astounding 1.9 million free surgeries that Coimbatore-headquartered Sankara Eye Foundation has conducted over four decades, shedding fresh light.
This also explains why the hospital’s achievement has gone beyond Coimbatore and is case material for study by several, including those at Harvard Business School.
Synonymous with this rare visionary feat is Dr RV Ramani, supported by his wife Dr Radha Ramani. More than being a sustainable business model, the hospital is a case in example of a social commitment.
Dr Ramani in his recount told The Covai Post about the inspiration he derived from his father-doctor who was among the three physicians in Coimbatore during the 1930s.
He has heard about his father along with others doing yeoman service during the plague in Coimbatore in 1942. Later as a little child when he used to go out with his father in the car through the lanes and bylanes of the city, people sitting in front of their houses used to stand up in respect till the car moved on. That was big inspiration to this eye doctor who decided to tread his father’s path.
Motivated by his father’s selfless service and not for any monetary gain, Dr Ramani took his medical degree from Manipal. But before he completed his studies, he lost his father. But the inspiration, supplemented by his wife Dr Radha, continued to grow stronger and found form through a clinic they started in 1972.
The couple looked beyond personal practice as both husband and wife had the same train of thought.
Once when he went to pick his car up from a workshop he noticed a huge building that was nearly completed. It was part of the Kamakshi temple where there was a plan to set up a free clinic. “I was 29 and my wife 27 then. It so happened that the next day during a temple visit I chanced to see Kamakshi temple trustee Pattabhirama Iyer, known for his largest tuft. Things fell in place immediately,” the doctor said.
The Kanchi seer told him to take over and he did so in three months and the rest is history. It was a primary health centre where the consultation fee was 50 paise. From there it grew to be on a 5-acre plot. Today, through the Kanchi Kamakoti Medical Trust with support of over 70 consultants, Sankara Eye Hospital has branches in 10 places across the country. Five more are under construction.
It is quality with frugality. The hospital conducts 750 free eye operations daily across the country.
The Sankara Eye hospitals have a unique model working on a 80:20 ratio. While 80 per cent of the beneficiaries are rural poor receiving fully free eye care, the rest are the patients who can afford to pay. This cross-subsidy makes the hospital self-sustaining and a model for researchers to study.