The problem of avoidable blindness in unavailability of early intervention towards eye care has been a major concern in the Indian healthcare scenario especially in North Bengal. The undulating mountainous terrains of North Bengal covered with lush green tea bushes and hard to reach hamlets have a huge population vulnerable to visual impairment owing to a lack of basic eye-care facilities.
Understanding that in a developing country like India the government alone cannot meet the health care demands of the aspiring population hence to facilitate the outcome few socially conscious members of Lions Club of Siliguri Greater dreamt of an Eye Care Institute to serve the people of Eastern India, and hence Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital was envisaged in 1981. The hospital is governed by a trust called Greater Lions Seva Nidhi.
By virtue of its location Siliguri has become an important national and international transit route between India and rest of the North Eastern region of the country. The place also shares border with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal and falls on the way to the idyllic hill station of Darjeeling making it an ideal destination to access better health care. Not only the people of North Bengal, but also people from the neighboring states of Sikkim, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand and districts in the regions depend on Siliguri for comprehensive healthcare including speciality eye care. SGLEH, located in Siliguri, is a tertiary eye hospital setup by the Lions Club of Siliguri Greater.
The hospital which began with offering basic patient care service added several features thereafter. In the past three decades, the organization’s approach has undergone a sea-change. As the volume of patients has increased the quality of its services, equipment and capacity has also gone up enormously, thanks to the support of international agencies and philanthropists. The human resources at the hospital have also strengthened as a result of recruitment of more skilled ophthalmic surgeons and paramedics as well as administrative and support staff.
Different sub-specialties have been added from time to time according to the requirement of the community and now the hospital has been developed into a tertiary level hospital. The hospital renders sub-specialty services in Vitreo-retina, Low Vision, Child Eye Care, Squint, Glaucoma, Contact Lenses and Cornea. The hospital has a well-equipped pathology laboratory, optical and pharmacy shop.
A sliding scale fee structure was introduced to enable people from different economic strata to receive high quality eye care services at an affordable cost. Approximately 60 per cent patients are treated free of cost at SGLEH. With the revenue generated from paying cases the organization is able to cross-subsidize free cases and meet its burgeoning expenses. Thus, SGLEH has successfully established itself as the largest eye care service providers of North Bengal and to a large extent reduced its dependency on external funding agencies to manage basic eye care services.