More can still be done for eye care in Guyana – Ophthalmologist
Despite innovative moves by the Government to introduce the National Ophthalmology Centre at Port Mourant with a view to improving the delivery of eye care, there still remains a need for more local vision experts.
This is according to Dr. George Norton who has been the lone Ophthalmologist attached to the Ophthalmology Department of the country’s premier public hospital, the Guyana Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), for close to two decades.
Even with the setting up of the Ophthalmology Centre, Dr. Norton said that the GPHC is still tasked with attending to a number of referrals from the Port Mourant facility. The facility is manned primarily by Cuban eye experts.
“I don’t know much about what happens there, we have heard so many things that are being said by the authorities but patients come and tell us something different,” Dr. Norton revealed during a recent interview.
The GPHC, according to the Main Opposition Party’s (A Partnership for National Unity) Shadow Minister of Health, attends to an average of 200 patients per day, five days a week. Among the cases that are seen, he said, are disorders which cause persons to develop vision difficulties including infections such as conjunctivitis and other conditions that are linked to age such as cataract and glaucoma.
However, the ophthalmologist observed that more persons are today fully aware of the importance of visiting an eye doctor, almost as much as they recognise the importance of keeping their annual dental appointments.
“You don’t have to necessarily be suffering from any pathology of the eye before you visit the eye doctor. There is a certain type of glaucoma that is asymptomatic and you can only recognise that you are suffering from an irreversible blinding condition by just a coincident visit…”
In recognition of the need for more local experts in the field, Dr. Norton stressed the importance for more persons to specialise in ophthalmology. “Training for persons has been happening to some extent but not as a main agenda of the government.
“The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are coming into Guyana and offering post-grad training…but with respect to the government actually offering services in ophthalmology this isn’t happening as it should. I think we need to get that in a routine manner. We need to be able to say that we will turn out a certain amount of eye specialists at a specific time,” Dr. Norton asserted.
He noted, too, that while he is all for the introduction of tertiary eye care being established right here in Guyana there is also need for the input of local experts. “I would be the first to support such a move whether it involves me or not…Because I have been around for such a long time working at the main referral centre, one would have reasoned that any form of eye care I might have been involved in.
“Unfortunately that is not the case when it comes to the National Ophthalmology Centre.”
Dr. Norton said that the public hospital has over the years shown the capacity to undertake surgical operations that have been done at the Ophthalmology Centre.
He said that the GPHC has embarked on other operations such as the Partial Thickness Corneal Graft
“They have all been successful but the reason why there haven’t been other surgeries of that nature is because of the lack of the donor tissue you need for this operation…”
Dr. Norton explained that for this operation the cornea from cadavers are required. “You harvest them and keep them in a bank, a process that doesn’t take any kind of sophistication but it is more a medical-legal kind of situation and culture of course…”
If we start harvesting corneas in Guyana we would get a ready market and we could be able to contribute so much to the revenue of the health service,” Dr Norton speculated.
He revealed that while a proposal of this nature has been made it has not been to a large extent even as he alluded to the notion that the hospital has seen support from a number of countries including Russia, Africa, China and Cuba.
“They only come for a short period of time and then they go…this has not only been the situation in eye care but in other specialist areas as well,” the ophthalmologist confessed.
He stressed too that in order for more eye care services to be made available to the public such as the state of the art cataract surgery which was previously offered, there is need for a greater injection of funds.