The New Zealand High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Mark Ramsden, visited the National Referral Hospital in Honiara last week where he saw first-hand the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
While he was there he met with the visiting surgical outreach team from the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva (a training centre for Pacific eye health workers established by The Foundation in 2006) and spoke with patients waiting for their sight-restoring cataract surgery.
The surgical team was based in Honiara for five days and performed 165 sight-restoring surgeries. While many of these surgeries were to remove blinding cataracts, there were also four patients presenting with eye injuries requiring urgent treatment. Many of the patients had travelled by boat and truck from remote areas to see the team.
“It really is incredible that a patient can arrive at the eye clinic blind and leave the next day with their sight restored,” said Mr Ramsden. “I am particularly impressed to see that the majority of the visiting team are Solomon Islanders who have come home to provide eye care to their own people.”
Four out of five people living in the Pacific who are blind don’t have to be, and The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ trains Pacific eye health workers to restore sight in their own communities.
Dr Mundi Qalo, Head of the Solomon Islands National Eye Care Program, completed his Master in Medicine (Ophthalmology) at the Pacific Eye Institute at the end of 2009, and since 2010 has been running the eye clinic at the National Referral Hospital. He is the only ophthalmologist in the Solomon Islands and is supported by a registrar and a team of eye nurses, some of whom are also graduates from the Pacific Eye Institute.
“The need for eye care services in the Solomon Islands is huge and the visiting teams from The Pacific Eye Institute help us get through the backlog of patients who are desperately in need of surgery,” said Dr Qalo. “There are currently two more Solomon Island ophthalmologists in training at the Pacific Eye Institute which will help us meet the demand for services over the coming years.”
The Foundation’s work in the Pacific is made possible through funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs New Zealand Aid Programme and the surgical team was delighted that the High Commissioner took the time to visit the clinic. The next step for The Foundation is to upgrade the infrastructure to accommodate both the patients and the increased number of eye health workers.
A second surgical team from the Pacific Eye Institute travelled by boat to Kilu’ufi Hospital in Malaita where they performed 50 surgeries.
This article was provided by the Fred Hollows Foundation, NZ.