"Flying eye hospital" Orbis makes stop in Singapore

The Orbis plane, the world's only "flying eye hospital", made its stop in Singapore this week to raise awareness about blindness.
The Orbis plane, the world's only "flying eye hospital", made its stop in Singapore this week to raise awareness about blindness. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The interior of the Orbis plane.
The interior of the Orbis plane.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Apparatus are seen in the interior of the Orbis plane.
Apparatus are seen in the interior of the Orbis plane.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE- A plane arrived this week at Paya Lebar Airbase. But it is no ordinary aircraft.

The Orbis plane, also known as the world's only "flying eye hospital", made its stop in Singapore this week to raise awareness about blindness.

Orbis, an international non-profit organisation, is primarily a teaching hospital which trains medical professionals from developing nations in eye care. It has so far travelled to 92 countries, providing hands-on training to medical professionals and better access to quality eye care, among other areas.

It also conducts operations for patients on board the aircraft while medical professionals watch and learn in an adjacent classroom through a live feed.

Orbis' visit to Singapore marks the first time that its latest plane model- a third generation MD-10 plane- has landed in the Republic after hundreds of aircraft experts retrofitted it. The whole effort took six years.

The aircraft, which was open to the media on Friday (Dec 9), boasts a 46-seat classroom, an operating room as well as a patient care and laser treatment room, among other features.

Apart from having a longer flight range of 6,000 nautical miles which will enable it to fly longer distances, the plane's live broadcast capabilities will also better train doctors and nurses with live footage in 3D.

According to the World Health Organisation, 285 million people in the word are visually impaired. Yet, about 80 per cent of these cases are preventable.

Orbis has, in the last five years, trained over 115,000 doctors and other medical professionals. Over 340,000 eye surgeries have been performed for patients during that same period.

"The Flying Eye Hospital plays a vital role in Orbis' mission to bring the world together to fight blindness," said Mr Paul Forrest, Chief Development Officer of Orbis International.

"Our launch of this new third-generation Flying Eye Hospital not only marks a new chapter in our shared sight-saving journey, but also brings us a significant step closer to our dream of eliminating avoidable blindness forever."

Apart from helping to retrofit the plane, FedEx also announced in June this year that it was renewing its five-year US$5.375 million (S$7.66 million) commitment to Orbis. That includes providing aircraft services and sponsoring fellowships for ophthalmologists to study in leading global eye institutes.