Aravind Eye Hospital
|Aravind Eye Hospital|
|Aravind Eye Care System|
|Location||Madurai, Pondicherry, Coimbatore, Salem, Theni, Tirunelveli, Kolkata, Amethi, India|
|Lists||Hospitals in India|
Aravind Eye Care Hospital is an ophthalmological hospital with several locations in India. It was founded by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy in 1976. Since then it has grown into a network of eye hospitals that have seen a total of nearly 32 million patients in 36 years and performed nearly 4 million eye surgeries, the majority of them being very cheap or free. The model of Aravind Eye Care hospitals has been applauded all over the world and has become a subject for numerous case studies. 
The problem of avoidable blindness rapidly escalating remained a major cause of concern in the Indian healthcare scenario. In a developing country the govt. 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 GOVEL Trust was created as a non-profit trust, with Dr V as Chairman and his two brother, two sisters and their spouses and an ex officio member, the Madurai Main Rotary President as trust members. Dr V started with a modest 11-bed hospital, in Dr V brother's home at Madurai, after most banks refused to lend him money because of his age and eccentric model. In this hospital six beds were reserved for people who could not afford to pay while the remaining five were for paying patients. He had to mortgage all the jewellery of his family members to raise funds to start the first hospital. The hospitals were 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.
Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must also be the joy of doing something beautiful. Being of service to God and humanity means going well beyond the sophistication of the best technology, to the humble demonstration of courtesy and compassion to each patient.
Since the very beginning, family members of Dr V have played an important and vital role in the growth and eventual success of the Aravind Eye Hospitals. Dr. V’s sister, Dr. G. Natchiar, her husband, Dr. Nam, Dr. Nam's sister and her husband, all ophthalmologists working in the government hospital at Madurai, joined the cause in the beginning itself. Over the years, other family members have also joined in various capacities and many have taken leadership roles. After the death of Dr Venkataswamy in 2006, his younger sister, Dr. Natchiar, and her husband, Dr. Namperumalsamy lead the efficient team of doctors, nurses and volunteers at Aravind.
1977- First 30 Bed Hospital opened at Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu
1978- 70 Bed Hospital, exclusively for free patients
1981- Existing paying hospital building expanded to 250 beds and 80,000 sq. ft. of space over five floors
1984- A new 350-bed hospital opened exclusively for free patients in Madurai
1985- 100-bed hospital at Theni, a small town 80 km west of Madurai
1988- 400-bed hospital at Tirunelveli,160 km south of Madurai
1997- 874-bed hospital at Coimbatore
2003- 750-bed hospital at Pondicherry
2011- 150-bed hospital at Salem
Started in 1976 as an 11-bed hospital in Madurai, Aravind now has branches at Theni, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Pondicherry, Dindigul and Tirupur. Some of the hospital are said to serve as many as 2,000 patients per day. The hospitals provide high quality and affordable services to the rich and poor alike, yet be financially self-supporting. They have well equipped speciality clinics with comprehensive support facilities. This has been possible by attention to process and innovative methods to improve efficiency. For instance, doctors sit between two operating tables; when they finish with one, they just turn to the other patient who is already draped and ready. This way they are able to save valuable time between surgeries. These measures have made surgeons extremely productive. These measures have also pushed down the average cost of surgery. In the year ending March 2012, Aravind handled 2,838,689 outpatient visits and performed 349,274 surgeries. Aravind's surgeons conduct 2,000 operations a year, on an average. The number in the U.S. is just 125. The high number of surgeries, however does not mean more mistakes or a compromise on quality. The number of complications at Arvind are nearly half of those in the British Health System for the same procedures.
The name that Arvind has made for itself and high level of quality, attracts patients from all over the world who are willing to pay the market price for their treatment and surgeries. The profit generated from these patients is then used to cross-subsidise and fund free surgeries for poor people. At Aravind patients have a choice of whether they want to pay or not. To reach out to the rural Tamil Nadu Aravind has established its primary eye care facility named, vision centres. The community eye clinics take care of the ophthalmic needs of a semi urban population.
The Aravind eye care is believed to be the largest provider of eye surgeries in the world conducting nearly 7 percent of all eye surgeries in the world.
After fifteen years, Aravind faced a major challenge in terms of the rising costs and availability of intraocular lenses required for eye surgeries that threatened its very existence. With assistance from American entrepreneur David Green, Aravind started Aurolab, an on-site lens manufacturing set-up. Aurolab today produces nearly 1.8 million lenses for a price as low as $2. The availability of cheap lenses have allowed for many more surgeries at Aravind Eye Care Hospitals. 
Initially, Dr V attempted to raise funds and planned to start Aravind as a free-for-all hospital catering to the poorest section of the society, who could not afford to pay for eye surgeries. After he was unsuccessful in his efforts, he decided to start with the Hybrid model.
In the beginning, eye camp sites were organised all over Tamil Nadu, where eye glasses were prescribed and fitted. However, no surgeries were performed at these sites, which was the common practice at that time; all patients were examined at the sites and referred to the main hospital in case surgery was required. These eye camps were free for all the poor patients. Through health education and various other initiatives, strong case was made for Intraocular Lenses (IOLs). Both camp and walk-in free patients were required to pay Rs.500 or $10 approx for IOL surgeries(Aurolabs brought down the cost of surgery significantly). For deserving cases, the charge could be waived by the doctor in charge at the Outpatient Department (OPD). Later, in 1995 when the Government launched a cataract blindness control program with World Bank funding and offered a subsidy for the Aravind camp patients, the camp patients were not charged this amount. During the initial period, the yield was less than 20 percent, that is less than one in five patients availed the option of free surgery due to the various barriers that poor people faced in making a choice about eye surgery such as food, lodging and transport. By reducing the time taken for each surgery and other initiatives Aravind has managed to increase the acceptance rate to over 80 percent today. In 2007-08, Aravind performed a total of 285,745 surgeries. Out of these 200,123 were for cataracts. At a total cost of $10.1m, this leads to $35 per surgery performed.
Aravind follows unique HR policies and a well-evolved in-house training operations. Currently, it runs programs to develop ophthalmologists, paramedics, eye care managers and support service personnel. It was accredited to offer diplomas in ophthalmology in 1982, and subsequently recognized to offer MS in ophthalmology in 1986. Since 1988, it has also been offering fellowship programs in various disciplines of eye care. Aravind recruits without any media advertisements, something which is a common practice in India. Aravind advertises its personnel needs through announcements during camps and referrals through employees. On joining the work stream, each employee quickly realizes the importance of the founder’s values. This breeds a spirit of involvement and accountability. It goes a long way toward building up a fierce brand loyalty. Effective compensation systems and welfare measures back up the high moral ground and help retain employees. Overall, it is clear that the hospital’s self-sustaining and organic HR template draws and retains the best medical talent.
Awards and Recognition
- Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2010 
- 2008 Gates Award for Global Health 
- India’s Most Innovative Hospital Award at India Healthcare Awards 2011
- FICCI award for the Best Private Hospital in India
- Champalimaud Vision Award 2007
- Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, Founder
- Thulasiraj Ravilla, developer of the LAICO-Aravind Eye Hospital Care System