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“Nethsetha” A haven for the less fortunate

2 October 2014 11:15 am
By Mandulee Mendis

Standing in the new town of Ratnapura, ‘Nethsetha’ Eye Hospital is serving as a haven for the less fortunate. Gleaming beneath the flag of the Lions Club International, Nethsetha eye hospital is providing admirable eye treatments free for those who cannot afford expensive operations.

1   19 2 The only features that are obvious in the hospital premises are kindness and will to serve. Following the Lions’ theme ‘We Serve’ Nethsetha eye hospital is spreading its rays of aid not only to those who live in Ratnapura, but also to everyone in the island. In appreciation of Nethsetha’s service provided to the society, we spoke to the Manager of the Eye hospital Lion Ranjith Kulathunga. He has completed Diploma in Physiotherapy, Postgraduate diploma in Physiotherapy and Postgraduate diploma in hospital administration management. 3

Manager of the Eye Hospital Lion Ranjith Kulathunga

 Q: What is the main purpose of Nethsetha? The main purpose of Nethsetha is to serve the society and the less fortunate. Speaking in depth, we are performing free eye operations for those who cannot afford operation expenses. Q: Let’s start with the history. Who started this project and what was the main reason that influenced this decision? Nethsetha eye hospital was started by Lion Asoka Z Gunasekara who is the current Chairman of the institute. It was started in 1st August 2011 and surgeries were started in 12th January 2012. The hospital is a donation from Lions in Finland for the admirable service of Lion Asoka Z Gunasekara throughout the years. Q: Is there any reason to have the hospital built in Ratnapura? Yes, after an analysis, our Chairman found that those who are in need of this service are closer to Ratnapura. Specially those who work in estates have no money to get the operations done related to eye, specially when it comes to cataract operation that comes with aging. Therefore it was decided to build the eye hospital in Ratnapura. Q: What kind of operations are being done here? Mostly we focus on cataract operation because it is the most common condition. Q: What can you say about the staff? Our staff is very talented and caring. The surgeons are very qualified and experienced. We have 5 surgeons, 6 other doctors and a big crew of sisters, nurses and attandants. Our staff was trained in Sankara Nethralaya hospital in India and thus they are quite skilled. The most important quality of our staff is kindness. We call every patient ‘amma’ and ‘thaaththa’ so that they feel like home. And we are doing our best to do a better service together as a team. Q: How do you find the equipment used compared to other eye hospitals? Are those of the same quality? I should mention that we use the latest technologies for surgeries and our equipment are of the latest technologies because those were donated from Finland. Q: What are the other facilities available in the hospital? We have two very good wards withfacilities for 17 patients in each ward.Apart from that we have two good roomswith facilities for both the patient andcaretaker. In future we wish to expand thefacilities by adding more wards, a kitchenand other related facilities. Q: Is there a possibility for one to pay and get done the operations as well if they want? Yes, there is. One could pay and get the operation done too. As a matter of fact, that is the way we earn money to perform the free operations for those who cannot afford. 7 Surgery Staff 6 5   8 Dr. I. D. Dias, Consultant Ophthalmologist Q: What are the other sources of income that aid you in this humanitarian process? It is my duty to mention that we receive an amount of $30 for each patient from the International Lions club. Since this amount is not fully covering the expenses, we need the income from the paying patients too. Q: If one needs to get the cataract operation done what are the possible paths he/she should follow? There are four paths. If he/she wants to get it done for free he/she could come through a Lions Club or come here directly. If not he/she should attend one of the village level camps we conduct. Q: If one needs to get the operation done for free, what is the procedure he/she should follow? The patient could come through the Lions Club of his/her area. That specific Lions club should prove that the patient is from a low income family. But if the patient is coming here directly, he/she should bring a Gamasevaka certificate and a Divisional secretariat certificate certifying he/she is from a low income family. Q: What are these village level camps? First we select a village and decide a common place like the temple or a school to hold a camp to test the eyes of the people for free. Our team visits there and identifies those who need to get the cataract operation done. They are then given an appointment for the operation. 13   9 14 Q: What are the problems you are facing currently? The main problem is that the patients do not take care of themselves properly once the operation is done. No matter how much we advice, they often get the operated eye damaged at home and come back placing the blame on us. The other issue is their hygiene, most of the patients are not clean, and this weakness affect the results of the operation. Patients in this area do a lot of distant travelling, this is also not good for the operated eye. Above all other issues, poverty of the people is the main issue. One of the problems we are currently facing is that the patients do not hold any responsibility. They don’t understand that caretaker is an important person. It is the responsibility of the caretaker to take care of the patient once the operation is done. Some patients just pay someone at the bus stop and get him signed as the caretaker. Then who is responsible for him once the operation is done? Q: What are the other plans you are having? We have already started a program for kids named ‘Sight for kids’. There we focus on the vision of school children. We wish to expand it further. We also hope to develop the optical shop we have started and the neurosurgeon consultation facility. We also wish to expand our services in the aspect of Diabetes. Anyhow our main focus is on awareness. Since prevention is always better than cure we try our best to make people aware. Q: What is the final message you have to give on behalf of Nethsetha Eye Hospital? I should say that we treat everyone equally irrespective to the ethnicity, religion or economical strengths. Although we are in Sabaragamuwa province, anyone from anywhere is welcome here. When it comes to senior citizens, we treat them in the way we treat our own parents. Their blessing is the most important income for this institution. As a team, we assure to provide you quality service in the shortest period possible.  



“Everything was done for free and it is almost like a dream”

“I came to get the cataract operation done. Everything was done for free and it is almost like a dream. If we get this done anywhere else it would cost around twenty thousand. Therefore I’m very grateful for the doctors and the staff. May they experience success in everything they do”

W. A. Dhanapala, 57, Hatton


“We were treated like family here”

“We were treated like family here. All the doctors, sisters, nurses treated us as if we were their own parents. I’m very thankful for this invaluable service.”

 A. Amarawathi, 64, Kotagala


“A special thank you should go to Hatton Lions Club that brought us here”

“If the Lions Club was not there I would have gone blind forever. Now I can see the world again and I’m very grateful for the hospital staff. A special thank you should go to Hatton Lions Club that brought us here”

S. Nallathambi, 75, Thalawakele

“We are very happy that they have built this hospital in this area”

“I brought my mother for an operation. We are very happy that they have built this hospital in this area. If it was in Colombo we would have found it very difficult. I need to thank everyone who has helped in building this hospital.”

Hemalatha Nakandala, 42, Kalawana


“This hospital is very clean and you feel like home”

“I brought my father for a check up. We got to know about this hospital from word of mouth because it is very famous in this area due to the admirable service it provides. The most important feature in this hospital is that it is very clean and you feel like home. I’m very happy we have such a place in this area.”

S.M. Premalal, 38, Godakawela

 “This hospital has a polite and talented staff that treats everyone equally”

“I came today with my husband to get spectacles. I should say that this hospital has a polite and talented staff who treats everyone equally. No matter whether you pay for the operation or get it done for free, you are treated equally. I really admire that quality. ”

N. A. Ariyawathi, 59, teacher, Ambilipitiya

A word from the Chairman

16 The chairman of Lions vision for sight hospital trust (Ratnapura) Lion Asoka de Z. Gunasekera sated:

“Nethhsetha is an invitation to reach out with the gift of sight to help the sight impaired experience the joy of Living. “The whole purpose of Lionism is to teach people the importance of the brotherhood of man. Unselfishness can be the greatest force for good in any neighborhood or in any country. True brotherhood exists where people live together, work together and break bread together in mutual trust and respect”

A project seeking the lasting effects of the ground work laid to meet the needs of today and for the future of Eye Care in the Region, the “Nethsetha” Lions Vision for Sight Hospital at New town, Ratnapura, is a unique gift from the Government of Finland Co-ordinated by the Lions International Multiple District 107 Finland together with the Lions International Foundation Fund and is the outcome of a request made by me. We are pleased to state that this hospital has the latest screening equipment and Theatres with state-of-the-art technology for conducting surgery, with male and female wards supported by well trained /qualified medical staff and a team of specialists. The trust has made great strides in eliminating the main cause of avoidable blindness. To continue this enormous task, we need your assistance. You could contribute your share by donating the sum you spend otherwise on celebrations like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, events to remember your loved ones, may be a special day of your organization or any other significant event. Here is the opportunity for you to share our vision. There is no experience better for the heart than reaching out and lifting people up –specially when an individual is given the gift of sight, to see and admire ones surroundings through their own eyes. From darkness to light, the glory of vision for these poor and elderly mothers and fathers as seen on the faces of those who have been fortunate to restore their sight, speaks volumes of the joy and gratitude in their hearts. May you beblessed for your kind generosity !”

Photographs By upeksha madushani




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