GPHC hopes to establish ‘eye bank’ after organ transplant legislation is passed


 By Vishani Ragobeer

The Ophthalmology department of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), headed by Dr. Shailendra Sugrim, will be seeking to establish an “eye bank” where it can store human tissues needed for eye surgeries, once the organ transplant legislation is passed.

In April, this year, the GPHC restarted corneal transplants after a two-year hiatus. A corneal transplant is a surgery that involves replacing the clear tissue at the front of the eye with similar tissue from someone else. This is usually done when that clear tissue, known as the cornea of the eye, becomes infected.

For this surgery to happen in Guyana, however, corneas need to be sourced in other countries – typically from deceased people – and shipped to Guyana where the ophthalmology team would conduct the procedure.

According to Dr. Sugrim, who spoke with the News Room on Thursday, the five transplants done since April benefitted from the corneas that were sourced by the George Subraj Foundation, which is based in New York City. Once sourced, these corneas were shipped to Guyana.

But, the human tissue transplant legislation that is currently in the works can expedite the process of providing surgeries to affected patients, Dr. Sugrim posited.

Though the donation of organs, like kidneys and lungs, is usually thought of when discussing organ donation through this legislation, the donation of other tissues like the cornea of the eye could be easily facilitated.

Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Dr. Shailendra Sugrim (Photo: News Room/ June 17, 2021)

“Going forward, we look forward to when the legislation would be passed so that we can eventually pave the way forward to having our own Eye Bank, where we can harvest the corneas in Guyana and have the tissues ready for transplant,” Dr. Sugrim highlighted.

Speaking with the News Room on Thursday, local Ophthalmologist, Dr. Celeste Hinds, who has been involved in corneal transplants, also related that as soon as the legislation is passed, systems would be put in place to allow Guyanese to donate their corneas.

“We are hoping to get to that stage where we can harvest and donate our own corneas instead of waiting on getting them shipped to Guyana,” she said.

This human tissue transplant legislation has been sent to the Attorney- General’s chambers for review and is expected to be presented to the National Assembly soon.

Dr. Kishore Persaud, Head of Department, Multi-Organ Transplant and Vascular Access Surgery at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), is one of the key stakeholders in the drafting of the legislation.

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