Jan 22, 2012 News
Although the Ministry of Health’s eye care programme has been deemed one of the most vibrant as it is free, its efforts were just recently bolstered through a collaborative effort which saw persons from a number of areas outside of the city being afforded much needed eye care.
The move was aimed at supplementing the optometry care offered by the Ministry of Health and saw the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Guyana, the Guyana Association of Optometrists and the University of the West Indies, collaborating with the Ministry to organize a medical outreach.
The initiative was the brainchild of President of the Guyana Association of Optometrists, Dr Michelle Ming, an optometrist herself.
Speaking about the genesis of the programme, which recently concluded, Dr. Ming said that it was during a visit to Trinidad last October to attend a conference held by the Trinidad Optometrists Association for World Sight Day, that she engaged a conversation with Lecturer of the University of the West Indies, Dr. Sandra Wang-Harris, also an optometrist by profession.
“We were talking about the new programmes both in Guyana and Trinidad…theirs started three years ago and Guyana’s two years ago, and it was during this conversation she mentioned that she wanted to visit Guyana since she is moving to East Timor later this year.”
I thought it was an excellent opportunity to get the two universities together and let the students meet, and at the same time we can do a joint eye care mission to help the underprivileged and the needy people who need eye care.”
Excited to get the programme on the road, Dr. Ming recounted that she returned to Guyana which was then overshadowed with election campaigns and later the elections itself, and was soon followed by Christmas. She noted, though, that it was because of the unwavering assistance of Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Emanuel Cummings, and the enthusiasm of Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran that the programme was kicked into motion.
“If it were not for them we would not have gotten it on the road so quickly…I have to thank them for their encouragement and enthusiasm and also Dr Harris over in Trinidad who motivated the students and got everything moving.”
Aside from Dr Harris, two other lecturers including Dr. John Randell accompanied students from UWI, and arrived in Guyana to aid the ambitious mission.
As a team, comprising the UWI and UG contingent and experts from the local Eye Care Association, “we managed to deliver eye care in two lesser privileged Regions,” Dr Ming emphasised.
She revealed that although the time was short, the team was able to descend upon the Essequibo Coast and Wismar, with meticulous precision, to bring eye care to those in need. In addition to conducting screening sessions, the team completed full retraction checks to ascertain the ocular health of those being attended to. Efforts were made to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetes and cataract, following which the dispensing was done with the help of the Volunteer Optometry Service for Humanity (VOSH), which donated lenses and frames for the mission while the members of the Association did the lab work, Dr. Ming said.
Dr Harris in brief remarks on Thursday evening, during a farewell ceremony, alluded to the fact that while the efforts were diligent, they only represented a mere percentage of the work needed to be done, even as she pointed out that the bulk of the work still remains on the host country.
She disclosed, too, that the mission will not come to an end with the departure of the UWI contingent as the UG students will be required to assist with the follow-up of patients who were attended to.
“We are only about 30 per cent through; they still have 70 per cent left to do…”
Speaking to the importance of optometrists, Dr Harris said that these professionals are required to be comprehensive health professionals “it does not mean that you collect people’s money and give them a pair of reading glasses, it means that you look at the body as a whole with the eyes as the window to the body…”
In the public health arena she noted that those who opt to be optometrists also have a mandate to help with the prevention of blindness which is not limited to just refraction.
“It is a wonderful profession to give the gift of sight, I think that almost every holy book speaks about the gift of sight, and I think we are privileged to be in this profession. It is not about the number of spectacles that we give, but rather, it is the amount of blindness that we are able to prevent,” she asserted
Also present at the ceremony was UG Pro-Chancellor, Professor Prem Misir, who said that the idea to provide eye care in rural communities, where health inequities are more pronounced, is really a superb one that has now flowered to the benefit of those who reside there.
“Great chunks of Guyana need some quality optometry health care and I think your outreach work is a dedication to the public good that calls for the freedom for you to tag along the trajectory of the ideas that come out of these outreach works and these ideas may culminate at some point in the future in enhanced quality eye care for all…a lot of good things start from ideas…” he noted.
Freedom to research thoroughly and profoundly requires that a university seeks to advance in its laboratory, classroom, lecture halls, and communities, Professor Misir noted, which was undertaken well with the recent outreach.
The event was also graced by a Representative of the Ministry of Education, Technical Advisor, Ms Melcita Bovell, who lauded the efforts of the team in helping to address the eye care plight faced by some less fortunate persons in the society. She noted that the Education Ministry has also been playing its part in the eye care area by partnering with the Ministry of Health for vision screening and the Low Vision Unit. However, she noted that the area of weakness is the partnering with parents which has been effectively achieved through the recent eye care mission.
Minister of Health Dr Ramsaran, while alluding to the fact that the Ministry of Health has been able to put eye care on the front burner quietly over the past decade, indicated that efforts are continually being made to improve the service offered.
“Things are happening in Guyana, it is using its academic institution to improve and promote health as one of the tools in the battle against poverty,” he asserted.
Essequibo is we own, can we say the same about the oil?
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