Cataract surgeries commence at Ophthalmology Hospital; thousands to benefit

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After nearly six years, the National Ophthalmology Hospital located in the compound of the Port Mourant Hospital has officially commenced daily cataract surgeries following several upgrades and improvements to the facility by the Ministry of Health in 2021.

Approximately $90 million was spent to procure equipment for the facility and additional monies were spent for the repairs to the building, Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony told the News Room on Saturday.

With this, thousands of persons who have been sitting on the waiting list for years will now be provided with the opportunity to have their cataract surgeries done, an operation that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to be done privately.

Vasco Jardine has been waiting since 2016 for his surgery

Vasco Jardine, 73, of Crabwood Creek has been waiting for surgery since 2016.

“And now that the other government takeover, they start the hospital going again so now I am expected to get my eyes done, I don’t know when but I am here checking my blood pressure and so on.”

Among the improvements made to get the facility up and running includes the procurement of theatre microscopes, micro-surgical equipment, consumables for cataract surgeries, phacoemulsification machine, and more.

Repairs were also done to the existing building to fully optimize operations and to make it conducive to staff and patients. Under the previous administration, the facility only offered corrective and laser surgeries. A team of volunteer doctors were brought to the facility in April 2019 to conduct cataract surgeries for a short period and upon the conclusion of that visit, surgeries were halted again.

However, since the Ministry of Health appointed a new Medical Director at the facility, plans began to materialize to get it operational again.

Daily surgeries (Monday-Friday) have re-commenced officially as of February 13, 2022, and according to the Medical Director of the National Ophthalmology Hospital, Dr. Vineshri Khirodhar, there is a backlog of 2,800 patients waiting to have their surgeries done but the goal is to clear that backlog by completing a total of 3,000 cataract surgeries by the end of the year.

She noted that with the surgeries back in action, persons will avoid paying a huge amount to private hospitals.

Dr. Vineshri Khirodhar, Medical Director of the facility

Dr. Khirodhar pointed out that for those visiting the facility, screenings and check-ups will be done and for diabetic, hypertensive, and cardiac patients, they are required to visit a day before the surgery. Once those procedures are complete, if approved by the surgeon, a date for surgery is provided.

“We are using appointments now because we do not want overcrowding in our theatre or next to our theatre, so we are doing ten cataract surgeries per day. COVID tests must be done on every patient before surgery as well”, the doctor explained.

Surgeries have been booked until March 10 but as patients show up, they are screened and given dates.

The facility currently offers all services inclusive of minor corrective surgeries and laser surgeries but have not ventured into the retina field just yet.

A total of 1,011 minor surgeries and 660 major surgeries (not cataract) were done in 2021. On staff, there are five Ophthalmologists, including a Clinical Ophthalmologist, a surgeon, a Retina Specialist, a Neuro Ophthalmologist and four theatre nurses.

A Bio-medical technician and a lab technician are also stationed at the hospital.

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