More Than 3,000 Needy Jamaicans Benefit from Corrective Eye Surgeries in Cuba


On its one-year anniversary, the Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Programme has successfully facilitated corrective eye surgeries for more than 3,000 needy Jamaicans, and has been hailed by healthcare officials from the governments of both countries as a partnership marked by “solidarity”.
At a function held last Friday (September 8), to celebrate the eye care project, which was implemented in September last year as a health co-operation initiative among the governments of Jamaica, Cuba and Venezuela, Health Minister Horace Dalley lauded the programme as “the highest manifestation of international solidarity among our peoples”.
Speaking within the context of complaints made in May that the eyesight of some patients in the eye care programme had deteriorated on their return from Cuba, the Health Minister noted that of the more than 3,000 persons who have undergone operations, the actual complications encountered were miniscule in comparison to the number of successes.
Overall, some 19 patients who were treated were subsequently identified as having complications, and according to Minister Dalley, “every single one of them will be found, will be treated and if necessary, sent back to Cuba for correction”.
The decision, he said, was taken when he led an eight-member delegation, which visited ophthalmology centres in Cuba in June. Since the trip, the governments of Cuba and Jamaica arrived at an agreement which will see more Cuban ophthalmologists being dispatched to Jamaica to assist in the treatment of patients, whose eye surgeries may require further attention.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Tony Guerra, the Cuban Co-ordinator of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Programme, expressed his government’s satisfaction with the general progress of the project.
Pointing out that 200 children were among the persons given assistance under the project, Mr. Guerra explained that the programme was founded, “in order to help all these people who cannot afford to get attention in the private sector”, with the Cuban government being more than happy to be “given the opportunity to help the people from one of our brother countries”.
Offering his testimonial at the function, retiree, Cyprian Rose recounted that he journeyed to Cuba with “an open mind”, and upon completion of his operation, full sight was restored to his eye.
“I was blind completely in one eye.I’m not talking about squinting. I am talking complete blackness and my eyes are cleared now,” Mr. Rose said.
Notwithstanding the cultural difference with the Cuban food, which the retiree cited as being the main challenge he had to deal with, he recalled that his health was of primary concern to the Cuban health officials.
“The doctors tried their best, and the assistants their best,” Mr. Rose said.
The purpose of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project is to provide supplementary surgical eye care to patients who cannot afford surgical intervention in the private sector and who are on long waiting lists in public sector health facilities. It is projected that a total of 10,000 surgical interventions will be done under the arrangement over a two-year period.
This project involves screening and selection of persons who have one of four eye diseases: cataract, pterigium, strabismus or ptosis.
Recently, the Ministry of Health streamlined the process for screening patients before they travel to Cuba for eye surgeries under the programme.
The move forms part of the agreed plan of action between Cuba and Jamaica, following Minister Dalley’s June visit to the Spanish-speaking country.
Dr. Sandra Knight, Co-ordinator of the Programme told JIS that, “we are now using the standard set by the World Health Organisation for screening, so if the patient is considered to be hypertensive and it is uncontrolled, then we will not send them”.
This also means that persons suffering from conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, will have to get their conditions under control before they are allowed to undergo surgeries in Cuba.
“We are also trying to limit persons with other conditions like thyroid problems, cancers and heart diseases,” she added, explaining that these conditions would determine the patient’s prognosis in terms of how quickly they would heal, if their sight would return fully, and how soon they could return home after surgery.
If doctors suspect that patients may have additional health problems, they will be referred to one of three institutions for further screening. These are the Kingston Public, Cornwall Regional and Mandeville hospital.

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