A Humble Beginning
The problem of avoidable blindness rapidly escalating remained a major cause of concern in the Indian healthcare scenario. In a developing country like India, the government alone cannot meet the health needs of all owing to a number of challenges like growing population, inadequate infrastructure, low per capita income, aging population, diseases in epidemic proportions and illiteracy.
Realizing this, Dr. Venkataswamy wished to establish an alternate health care model that could supplement the efforts of the government and also be self-supporting. Following his retirement at age 58 in 1976, he established the GOVEL Trust under which Aravind Eye Hospitals were founded.
The hospitals are named after Sri Aurobindo, one of the 20th century’s most revered spiritual leaders. In essence, Sri Aurobindo’s teachings insist on transcendence into a heightened state of consciousness and becoming better instruments for the divine force to work through.
In an eleven bed hospital manned by 4 medical officers, Dr.V saw the potential for what is today, one of the largest facilities in the world for eye care. Over the years, this organisation has evolved into a sophisticated system dedicated to compassionate service for sight.
Aravind, with its mission to ‘eliminate needless blindness’, provides large volume, high quality and affordable care. 50% of its patients receive services either free of cost or at steeply subsidised rate, yet the organisation remains financially self-sustainable. Much importance is given to equity – ensuring that all patients are accorded the same high quality care and service, regardless of their economic status. A critical component of Aravind’s model is the high patient volume, which brings with it the benefits of economies of scale. Aravind’s unique assembly-line approach increases productivity tenfold. Over 4.5 lakh eye surgeries or procedures are performed a year at Aravind, making it the largest eye care provider in the world. Since its inception, Aravind has handled more than 6 crore ( 65 Million) outpatient visits and performed more than 78 lakh (7.8 million) surgeries. The Aravind Eye Care System now serves as a model for India, and the rest of the world.
What started off as an 11-bed hospital has now become the conglomerate, Aravind Eye Care System. Today, Aravind operates a growing network of eye care facilities, a postgraduate institute, a management training and consulting institute, an ophthalmic manufacturing unit, a research institute and eye banks. Aravind’s eye care facilities include 14 eye hospitals, 6 outpatient eye examination centres and 82 primary eye care facilities in South India.