Sightsavers and Standard Chartered Bank join hands to create a safe & accessible environment for eye health facilities amidst COVID-19

June 2020

Mumbai, June 08, 2020 – Sightsavers and Standard Chartered Bank announced today their collaboration on promoting safe working environment in several hospitals and community eye health centres amidst COVID-19 crisis. In the current times, it is essential for hospitals to create and maintain safe working environment for its staff as well the patients while providing other essential non COVID-19 services.

Sightsavers being a leading global eye health and disability inclusion organisation is aiming to bring back essential eye health services in a safe manner at the grassroots via its partner hospitals. As many hospitals and vision centres are not equipped to make provisions for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits themselves, Sightsavers has collaborated with Standard Chartered Bank to make these available in the states of West Bengal and Maharashtra.

The project intends to provide material support to the partner hospitals in Kolkata, Sunderbans and Mumbai. In particular, support will be given to the clinical partners and vision centres which have been supported by Standard Chartered Bank under Sightsavers ‘Rural and Urban Eye Health Programmes’ in the state of West Bengal and Maharashtra.

Sightsavers top priority is the safety of our staff, partners and the communities in the countries where we work. For this reason, we always promote the use of appropriate PPE (masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns) to carry out certain activities to treat eye health conditions and combat neglected tropical diseases, such as surgeries and the collection of samples for lab analysis. In these cases, we source the necessary PPE through existing health systems or via approved local suppliers who follow our strict code of conduct.

We are introducing a risk assessment strategy to ensure PPE can be used for eye health work that Sightsavers supports, and is still available for COVID-19 response.  This risk assessment – done in consultation with governments and partners – looks at how to resume vital work safely while also factoring in each health system’s capacity to provide safe and effective healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The intervention aims to make provisions of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), a set of protective gear designed to safeguard the health of workers by minimizing the exposure to a biological agent. It consists of face-shield, N95 mask, gloves, coverall/gowns, and triple layered mask. It will be mostly used by the healthcare professionals, support staff and the patients availing the services at hospitals and vision centres.

RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India said, “We are extremely proud and happy to partner with Standard Chartered Bank yet again. Their support has helped us in the past to reduce avoidable blindness in the country and going forward they are again committed to the fact that access to eye health services should not stop at the grassroots even during COVID-19 times. Access to PPE kits by our various eye health professionals at the grassroots will ensure that we do not compromise on their or the patient’s safety while fighting avoidable blindness amidst COVID-19 pandemic situation.”

The PPE kits will also be available to the primary vision centre staff. Vision centres form a crucial link between the secondary hospitals and the beneficiaries for accessing primary eye care services, therefore it is important to cover them as well. The distribution of PPE will be done after the lockdown is lifted across the target districts.

Karuna Bhatia, Head – Sustainability, India, Standard Chartered Bank said, “Relief of all kind is critical during the existing pandemic situation. Serving communities and creating a safe environment at the grassroots for people to access essential health services including for eye care is vital. Standard Chartered Bank has thus collaborated with Sightsavers India to ensure support to hospital staff with PPE kits for serving the communities without any worry of exposing patients or themselves to the risk of COVID-19. We ought to think of how we can continue to facilitate safe health services for people at the grassroots once the lockdown is eased.”

The initiative will help in improved access to personal protective equipment’s among the health professionals and the patients in the identified districts and also reduce vulnerabilities of local communities, enabling them to better prepare for, mitigate and respond to COVID-19 disaster.

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