CHENNAI: My father was an opthalmologist. He worked at a government hospital for almost three decades. During my days, as a student at the medical college, and my formative years of training, he often used to tell me not to start a private hospital and instead, work in a government hospital to serve those from impoverished backgrounds.
That’s when I decided to pursue my dream of starting my hospital while honouring his words,” says Dr Mohan Rajan, chairman and medical director of Rajan Eye Care Hospital (RECH). Ever since the hospital’s inception 25 years ago, he has been treading on a purposeful path to make eye care accessible, affordable and available to one and all.
“A per cent of my services, as a medical practitioner, is done free of cost for those from the margins. To be socially responsible is a quality I imbibed from my father and I hope to spread the school of thought — of giving back to the society, to more people,” he adds. Despite his years of yeoman service, it was the pandemic that presented him with opportunities to get out of his comfort zone, and provide essentials and relief material to those affected by the virus.
In June 2020, amid the lockdown, Dr Mohan along with RECH and Chennai Vision Charitable Trust flagged the Covid Slum Relief Project, a CSR initiative to benefit slum dwellers in and around the city. “Every year, we used to conduct eye camps in several slums. However, last year, it came to a halt due to the pandemic. During this period, through our liaison officers, we learned how the tenement residents were struggling to tide through. We began distributing 5 kg rice, 1 kg wheat, masks, sanitisers, bread packets, vegetables and sanitary pads to people in about 20-30 slums.
These were sponsored by donors from the Chennai Vision Charitable Trust, the community ophthalmology wing of RECH. Eventually, as the initiative gained momentum, we started receiving more funds, ” shares the eye surgeon. Besides rations and essentials for those living in slum tenements, RECH has made its relief efforts holistic by extending their help to frontline workers, autorickshaw drivers, 300 cameramen and their families, 250 persons from the transgender community, 300 members from the Thiruporur Drivers Association, among others.
Rice, wheat, bread and other essentials were given to Corporation and sanitary workers, Metro Water drivers, cleaners and staffs. “3M goggles, sanitisers, N95 mask, face shields were provided to more than 2,000 city police personnel. About 4,000 Nitrile gloves were given to Government Hospitals; masks, sanitisers were provided to Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital (RIOGH), ICH and corporation dispensaries. The aim is to touch and help every section of the society,” he details. The distribution is done via the liaison officers following a token management system.
“This way, we can keep a tab on our stock, ensure the essentials have reached everyone and can maintain all safety and distance protocols,” he shares. In the coming months, through the initiative, he hopes to reach 75,000 more families across 300 slums. “We want to plant the seed of trust, humanity and hope in people who are wading through rough waters by providing help. We will be expanding the initiative and are looking for more sponsors to make it a tangible process,” he notes.
With eye camps still under the dark, Dr Mohan hopes to reboot them by March-April 2021. “We have a line-up of projects among which Project Kanmani will focus on childhood blindness and taking care of refractive errors. With schools currently shut, the screening process for schoolchildren have been kept on hold and will begin once they reopen. We will be covering seven districts in Tamil Nadu and two districts in Andhra Pradesh,” he says.
Ask Dr Mohan what his takeaway from the CSR initiative has been and he reflects. “When we helped these families, I observed how they looked at us as gods and revered us. However, that shouldn’t be the case. To help another person during trying times is the most human behaviour and that should be normalised. That’s a social change I want to bring about,” he says.
Helping the needy
Through this initiative, Dr Mohan, along with his team, has been able to help over 25,000 families from 100 slums in the city including Badrikari, Gangai Karai Puram, Dharmapuram, Giriappa Road, Ventuvangeni North & East, MK Radha Nagar, TP Chatram, Naduvankarai and SS Puram.