The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) through its Regional Eye Centre, National Referral Hospital team is pleased to be providing eye care services to community members within the catchment area of Helena Goldie Hospital in the Western Province as part of its Integrated Eye Outreach program.
Every year the program is rolled out to the provinces to provide some level of eye care that would otherwise only be available at the Regional Eye Centre in Honiara to those who need it in the provinces.
For this year 2023, the program kicked off in Honiara last month and this week rolled out to Helena Goldie Hospital with a team of 3 doctors, 7 nurses and 1 data officer deployed from Honiara over the weekend and are now working out from the Helena Goldie Hospital until Saturday 8th of April.
Tens of people with eye problems from the Southern to the northern region of North New Georgia travelled to Helena Goldie to get their eyes checked, treated and if need be under operation.
Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand financially supported the Integrated Eye Outreach program, with the integrated team that comprised of three doctors, seven nurses and a data officer.
On Monday the team conducted on ground screening of patient for Cataract, Pterygium, other eye operation, Diabetic Retinopathy, Biometry for all cataract patients and consultation on special patient, such as diabetic eye patient.
Tuesday the team conducted post operation day one review, eye surgery and continue with screening, and consultation on special patients. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the team will continue with post operation review and final day, the team will do a grand ward round for all the patients throughout the week.
Head of Regional Eye Clinic, National Referral Hospital and team leader Dr. Carole Poloso said the aim and objective of this particular outreach is to provide eyecare services to the population of the Western Province.
She explained as laid out in the Solomon Islands National Eye Care Cooperate plan, general objective is to reduce avoidable blindness in the Solomon Islands.
“Major causes of avoidable blindness are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, uncorrected refractive error and trauma.
“Outreaches is just one strategy to go about doing this. The rationale behind outreaches is we all know a large percentage of our population reside in the provinces and they cannot afford to come to Honiara to seek these services and at the same time Provincial Hospitals cannot afford to refer all patients to Honiara to receive these sight saving services. Hence the services are taken to our people in the Provinces”, explained Dr Poloso.
She outlined all outreaches are equally important as services need to be taken to the provinces. If services are not carried out in any given year, a back log of patients are expected.
She revealed it have been estimated that over 100 patients have been booked to possibly have surgeries. Also over 150 Diabetes cases have been booked for diabetes screening clinic. Additional patients will come for general review and possibly for refraction (glass check-up services).
“Surgical and Diabetes Retinopathy screening and treatment Outreaches are a major part of the Eye Division annual operational plan and so is paramount that these much needed services are carried out to all and no one is left needlessly blind”.
“On behalf of The Eye division I am grateful that the Eye division is annually supported by the SIG and also by our very important partner in eye care, The Fred Hollows Foundation – New Zealand. Without their support we will not be able to reach the unreachable as everyone has a right to sight”, said Dr Poloso.
Dr. John Szetu, Medical Director, Pacific Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand (FHFNZ) said apart from supporting the program FHFNZ funded the construction of the Regional Eye Centre (REC).
The foundation also employed six of the staff to provide functional support to the centre, including a Senior Administration Manager, a data admin officer, maintenance officer, an ophthalmologist and senior nurse.
“The FHFNZ is the main funder of the National Eye Division’s Annual Operation Plan budget, hence contributing to the National Health budget annually. This includes the funding of the outreaches to the provinces.
“The FHFNZ has been working in the Solomon Islands, partnering with the MHMS for nearly two decades. The FHFNZ has supported the training of more than 40 eye nurses and 6 ophthalmologists from the Solomon Islands. The foundation ensures that these HR for
can function in providing essential eyecare services to the population by continuing to support the funding of specialist eye equipment and medicines supplies to the hospitals, particularly the REC”, said Dr. Szetu.
Therefore, Dr Szetu said these outreaches bring services closer to the communities hence reducing services access costs.
“The more patients get their sights restored not only breaks their dependency on others but also frees up these carers. So for each surgical operation, not only the patient becomes productive as a result but the carer as well, so two people benefited from this at the least! – Good for the patient, for the family, the community and the country of course”, said Dr Szetu.
Meanwhile, similar tours have been done before with more than a dozen tours a year. These tours are important because it significantly reduces the cost of referrals by host hospitals to Honiara. This helped patients regain sight at their doorstep and they do not have to travel too far out of their comfort zones.