April 2013: When ‘It’ hit me
When I told people that Social Entrepreneurs Ireland was sending me on a journey through southern India I was frequently warned to expect a moment when “It” will hit me. “It” can be anything; for one of my fellow travellers it was a meeting a beggar who shared the same severe disability as two of her children.
Each surgeon completes 100 operations a day
‘It’ hit me in the Arivavind eye hospital in Pondicherry. I have been in far too many hospitals so I was not looking forward to this visit,but like so many things in India, my preconceptions were utterly wrong. After a tour of both the private and the public sides of the hospital we met two of the hospital leaders: A 75 year old surgeon and an immensely intelligent and serene middle aged female surgeon. They presented us with a slide show that astonished us all: each surgeon completes around 100 operations a day, they explained:
“they operate on two tables in the theatre so that one person can be prepped while another is receiving surgery, they work without a break for five hours at a stretch, sometimes more, and their error rate is half that in the UK. No patient, public or private waits for more than 2 hours to be seen despite vast numbers of patients.”
How do they achieve this? Their answer is simple, they want to heal others. The hospital is run on principles of respect, compassion and a desire to improve lives.
A young intern was outraged by a doctor’s behaviour
They also run outreach programs. Buses filled with people from poor villages come and go regularly; each person receives an eye operation within two days. They also provide two year training programs for thousands of young women from poor families whose lives would have been extremely difficult. An example that captures the spirit of this astounding place came from one of these young women. She approached the hospital leaders to make a formal complaint against a doctor. She was outraged by his behaviour and his lack of respect for a patient. What had he done? He took a coffee break and left his patient in the cubicle without explaining to them that he wouldn’t be back for 10 minutes!
Why ‘It’ hit me!
If this place is so wonderful you may be wondering why this was the ‘It’ that hit me. It’s simple; I have been in so many hospitals in Ireland and the UK, waited months for appointments, sat in waiting rooms through long nights, fought with red tape and meaningless systems…At the same time, in India , a country that does not have a fraction of our wealth or resources, I can see how it should be and how it could be.
Staff at Aravind are not motivated by income; everything they do is for the good of humanity. The staff chooses to work so hard because they are passionate about that work. We asked them how they recruit their support staff from the villages; the answer surprised us all. They do not look for the brightest and the best, they look for people with the right attitude. Then they meet their family and spend time making sure that they will contribute to the inspirational Aravind eye hospital.