RNC Free Eye Hospital, Valsad, Gujarat is completing 100 years of its establishment in June 2020. On 1st June, the hospital launched its centennial year celebrations with a small scale program. A bouquet of praises and wishes to RNC for sustaining their eye care services to the pre – dominantly tribal population in south Gujarat and adjoining state of Maharashtra.
From 1920 to 2020, it has been a remarkable hundred year’s journey for RNC. It has witnessed several changes in the field of eye care. From the torch light ophthalmology to the present equipment dominated one, the hospital has kept pace with the changes in ophthalmology boasting today of the state –of- the- art- technology in eye care.
The current 81 bedded eye hospital’s origin was a humble four bedded stand alone eye hospital in a rented accommodation. The year 1920 was when work in blindness was gearing up in India. In 1919 the Blind Relief Association was formed by leading citizens of Bombay (now Mumbai) with a view to prevent blindness with opening of centres in Chalisgaon in Maharashtra, Surat and Valsad in Gujarat.
The original hospital building in 1920
The experiment of Blind Relief Association was successful and led to the establishment of RNC – Ratanji Naththubhai Chavsarewala Free Eye Hospital with the objective to prevent blindness by providing eye care facility in south Gujarat free of any charges to the patients.
Established by Shri Khanbahadur Sheth Dadabhai Ratanji Balsara (Chavsarewala), who provided the seed money for this noble work, there is one aspect that has remained constant with RNC through the years. It is their founding objective to provide free eye care service to patients regardless of their economic status. “We do not charge any fees from the patients. They may belong to the economically weaker section or may have the capacity to pay, but once they come to us for treatment, we consider them equal” says Mr Bharat Desai, Chairman Trustee, RNC Free Eye Hospital. Cross subsidy approach is something they do not consider.
In the founding year, cataract and refractive error were started. In the hospital’s first annual report – yellowed pages available in the hospital’s archives – states that 1-7-1920 to 31-12-1922, 133 extraction of lens was performed. In addition of number of other services were also rendered.
Filling the huge need as it was of eye care in the pre dominant tribal area, patient volume kept increasing. It was too large to be accaccommodated in the hospital’s rented accommodation. Dr Paragji Desai was the lone ophthalmologist who manned the clinic with a handsome remuneration of rupees 250/ a month. In fact the name of the road where the hospital is located is now named in his honour.
Gradually as word about the facility spread and demand for larger hospital grew, donors came forward and more rooms were added. Block by block was built with funds matching needs through donations. More beds were added gradually growing to its current
capacity of 81 beds. From among celebrity donor was famous cine star, Ms Nirupa Roy, belonging to Bulsar, whose generous donation built an OT which was inaugurated by well known personality, former Prime Minister of India, Shri Morarji Desai in 1958.He was also a native of the place.
From the basic eye care services to a comprehensive eye care services offering 11 specialties, from one OT to six OT’s, the RNC Free Eye hospital kept growing and improving their facilities. Today RNC performs an average of 13,000-17,000 operations a year and 1Lac to 1.2 Lacoutpatients’ volume in a year.
Mr Bharat Desai is proud of the hospital’s infection free record with a success rate of 97%. “Cluster infection has never been observed since hospital’s inception”, says Mr Bharat Deasi.
“A big celebration was planned for 30th June but due to COVID-19 related situations it is postponed to 16 August, Parsi new year or later,” says Dr. Rohan Chariwala, Associate Medical Director, R.N.C Free Eye Hospital. Planning for the future, the hospital aims to stick to their founding objective: provide eye care with quality and free to all. We wish them luck in their future journey.