JIS News

The Jamaica/Cuba Eyecare Programme is to specially target children who are affected with Strabismus or what is commonly referred to as ‘cast eye’, through an extensive outreach exercise.
This is according to Claudetta Williams-Yearde, Co-ordinator of the Jamaica/Cuba Eyecare Project, who told JIS News that although the condition was among the four that were currently being treated under the programme, there were still many children across the island with the problem who could be assisted.
“It is something that can be corrected.parents can contact their local health centre for information about the programme,” she informed.
The screening of patients is done islandwide within these health centres. “We also partner with the Jamaica Society for the Blind and the Salvation Army.
Parents can find out further information from their health department, when we will visit for screening,” she said.
Commenting on the screening process, Mrs. Williams-Yearde said that the Health Ministry had completed streamlining the process for screening patients before they travel to Cuba for eye surgeries under the programme.
“One of the concerns was that we had a lot of our patients with multi co-morbidities, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems and so when they got to Cuba, they had to be there for a long time and this [in some cases] affected the outcome of surgery,” she noted.
“What we have done is to review our screening procedures to ensure that persons control their co-morbidities prior to going to Cuba,” she added.
This means that persons suffering from conditions such as diabetes and hypertension will have to get their conditions under control before being allowed to undergo surgeries in Cuba.
On the matter of complications, Mrs. Williams-Yearde pointed out that the Ministry had conducted an audit and it was found that the programme was “within the international standard as it relates to complications.” “Our objective is to ensure that there are no complications but, when we speak about complications we have to broaden it, because persons usually refer to complications such as inflammation in the eye, which is not the result of surgery. It is a result of how persons take care of the eyes, so what we have done is provide extensive education to our patients on how to take care of their bodies and eyes before and after surgery,” she said.
In light of this approach, Mrs. Williams-Yearde said that there have been no reports of complications since concerns were raised that several patients had experienced major complications following surgeries early last year.
“Both Jamaican and Cuban medical personnel have been very instrumental.they work together as well as in the post operative evaluations and screening of patients. We are very satisfied about the partnership and for the assistance from both sides,” she said.
In August 2005, the Governments of the Republic of Cuba, Venezuela and Jamaica together with Caribbean partners, Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia and Suriname, signed the historic Bilateral Agreement, ‘Mission Operation’, for their nationals to receive medical attention in the field of ophthalmology in Cuba.
Overall, some 20,000 Jamaicans have been screened since the inception of the programme, while 4,000 surgeries have been performed, including the four pathologies that were initially agreed on – Cataract, Pterogium, Strabismus and Ptosis (drooping of upper eyelid).
“In addition, we have received assistance for other persons who needed prosthesis and those affected with Retinitis Pigmentosa, among others,” Mrs. Williams-Yearde said.
Since the start of this year, more than 1,000 patients have visited Cuba to benefit from the programme.
For further information persons may call the Ministry of Health at 967-1100 or the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project at 948-0017.

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