World's only flying hospital in Kolkata

World's only flying hospital in Kolkata

Novelty may be the best known hallmark of the world’s only flying hospital, but far from satisfying the curiosity of Kolkata residents, the hospital, which is currently parked in the city’s airport, will venture to provide state-of-the-art eye care for free.

With the pledge of a “blindness free India”, the hospital, located on board a DC-10 aircraft, is expected to perform surgeries on 100 patients.

Besides treating patients of “preventive” eye conditions, the hospital will also be training ophthalmologists, surgeons and nurses in sight-saving skills.

Among those receiving training would be the staff from the state-run Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Susrut Eye Foundation, Disha Eye Hospital and Shankara Nethralaya.
The hospital, run by New York-based NGO Orbis International, currently has 23 staff on board, including four staff ophthalmologists and a medical director, as well as a dedicated team of nurses, biomedical engineers, communication and logistics staff, flights mechanics, avionics and IT specialist.

An official communiqué from Orbis pointed out that the aircraft is self-sufficient with generators, air-conditioning units and a five-step water purifying facility to ensure that water used for surgery is sterile.

“It also includes a 50-seat classroom, a laser treatment room with a separate operation theatre,” Ali added.

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (OFEH), which was inaugurated on Monday by state health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, is a cargo aircraft converted into a flying hospital.
According to sources at the city airport, the airport authorities have waived the parking charges for the private flying hospital, which has been relentlessly working towards treating preventable eye care since its inception in 1982.

The OFEH is always flown by volunteer pilots, who take off for destinations in developing countries for free eye treatment, a hospital spokesman said.

The mission of the flying hospital, which has visited Bangladesh, India, China, Ethiopia and various Latin American nations, is to fight “preventable blindness”, Rahul Ali, Orbis’ country director, told reporters.

The flying hospital will conclude its mission in the city on Sep 22, which would be the last flight for the DC-10 that hosted the hospital for nearly two decades. The aircraft will be replaced with an MD-10 aircraft that is currently being converted from a cargo plane to a fully furnished hospital in California.

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