By Charlotte Dryander, LGT Impact Fellow at City Eye Hospital, Kenya
An estimated 15.5 percent of the Kenyan population requires ophthalmic care. More than 80 percent of blindness in Kenya is preventable, which means that low-cost medical procedures can restore sight and enable active and independent participation in public life.
There are several reasons for the limited access to healthcare, especially for Kenya’s rural population: First, only 19.1 percent of Kenyans have health insurance, and 12.7 percent of the population do not seek health care due to lack of financial resources. In addition, a large portion of the rural population is considered geographically disadvantaged. Due to the lack of trained personnel, large parts of the country are unserved or inadequately served with ophthalmic facilities and the necessary medical expertise.
As an LGT Impact Fellow for the 2021-2022 cohort, I joined the team at City Eye Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, in November on a mission to make quality eye care both financially and locally accessible and to combat unnecessary blindness in Kenya.
City Eye Hospital is a social venture that operates an inclusive healthcare model targeting all Kenyans, regardless of their financial situation or where they live. The company applies the concept of economies of scale: Through patient-centered and efficiently designed processes, the hospital archives high patient volumes while reducing operating costs of the same high-quality eye care. This allows the hospital to charge consultation fees below the state eye clinic rates. In addition, a cross-subsidy model that charges premiums for making appointments instead of waiting in walk-in facilities partially refinances a free ‘community outreach program’ for remote areas with low-income patients. Since 2015, City Eye Hospital has provided free screenings to more than 80,000 people, free cataract surgery to more than 4,000 people, and conducted more than 6,000 early interventions for those at risk of blindness. However, demand in remote communities remains high and exceeds the hospital’s ability to fund them from its own revenue alone.
And this is where I step in as an LGT Fundraising Fellow.
As a Fundraising Manager, I am responsible for raising the necessary funds to finance the outreach activities and to provide free eye care to patients without health insurance or adequate financial resources. This includes screening camps, medications, eyeglasses, and transportation between hospitals and underserved communities for those who need eye surgery in the city, the surgery itself, and post-surgery accommodation. To provide sustainable eye care services throughout Kenya and to further increase the radius of our work, we are currently building an additional hospital in Nyeri (which will become another starting point for our community outreach program) and two vision centers within 80 km of Nairobi.
As a tech-savvy person who worked at a tech startup before joining City Eye Hospital, I am particularly excited about the development of the vision center. These centers will offer eye screening and diagnostics using a telemedicine approach, meaning that the diagnosis of medical images will be performed by doctors at hospitals in the cities. This brings two advantages: first, it compensates for the lack of trained personnel in rural areas, and second, it enables high-quality data collection that can later be used to train software solutions to partially automate the doctor’s diagnosis based on artificial intelligence.
#AllEyesOnChristmas – What happened so far.
Having read until this point of the article, you have gotten a glimpse of the various initiatives and ambitious growth plans City Eye Hospital is working on. Having joined the team 6 weeks ago, I am in the process of understanding all the ongoing activities and finding the right strategy, programs, and long-term partners for our work at City Eye Foundation.
Since this will likely entail lengthy processes with potential funders, we decided to hold City Eye Foundations’ first Christmas fundraiser: GIVE SIGHT FOR CHRISTMAS.
The goal is to sustain our community outreach program in the short term and perform as many cataract surgeries as quickly as possible. With #AllEyesOnChristmas, we want to activate our loyal and satisfied patient base, recurring individual donors, investors, supporters, friends, and family and invite everyone to donate any amount to help us reach our target of providing free cataract care to an additional 1,000 people in Kiambu, Machakos and Nairobi counties.
GIVE SIGHT FOR CHRISTMAS – a gift of a different kind.
The Christmas fundraiser was a quick start for my work at City Eye Hospital. Just two weeks after my arrival in Kenya and my induction, I had another two weeks to plan and set up the campaign to have sufficient time to carry it out before Christmas. This did not leave enough time to get corporate partners or other multipliers on board. Preparing and distributing the campaign therefore became a real team effort and immediately required a lot of interaction with several other departments, colleagues.
And it worked! We launched the campaign as planned with a banner, posters, and flyers in the hospitals in Nairobi and sent out a mass SMS to more than 5,000 former patients. So far, we have received donations from over 60 old and new donors. I am optimistic that we will raise a substantial amount of money by the end of the campaign to conduct four community outreach camps as well as 15+ free cataract surgeries.
The reactions of former patients from City Eye Hospital were especially rewarding – the great response rate is a real compliment to the work of the City Eye Hospital team and shows the high satisfaction of its patients.
(Sources of number: National Eye Health Strategic Plan Kenya 2020-2025)