JIS News

It was legendary humanitarian and Indian nationalist Mohandas Ghandi, who once wrote, “An eye for eye, will leave a nation blind”.
It is in recognition of the truth of that statement and the need to preserve the vision of the youngest members of the society to ensure national progress, that the government of Jamaica has teamed with ORBIS International, to create a world class facility for paediatric eye care at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.
ORBIS is a non-aligned, non-profit global development organization, with a mission to preserve and restore sight by strengthening the capacity of local partners to prevent and treat blindness.
Started in April of 2004 with US$450,000 in funding from ORBIS, the Paediatric Eye Care Capacity Building project, is designed to, over the next two years, construct a treatment facility to reduce childhood blindness, improve human resource capacity and encourage private sector support to ensure the sustainability of the project.
With the project almost a year underway, Dr. Leon Vaughn, a Consultant Ophthalmologist and Project Coordinator, tells JIS News that significant strides have been made and the eye clinic is on course for completion in 2007.
“Things are on course. The ORBIS principle of measurable impact and practices of monthly and quarterly project monitoring will allow for tracking the progress of the project. Mid term reviews will take stock of what is working and what is not, so that corrective actions can be taken,” he notes.
The project was borne out of the foresight of Dr. Joan McLeod, ORBIS’ International Director for Latin America and the Caribbean and Dr. Vaughn, who had the vision for upgrading the paediatric ophthalmology department at the Bustamante Hospital for Children. The vision and subsequent proposal was later shared with the Health Ministry.
The agreement between the Ministry and ORBIS has so far seen the provision of financial support by the global organization through a cash grant to the Ministry to purchase equipment and also serve for renovation and training.
In addition, informs Velta Turner, ORBIS representative, funds are provided for training programmes conducted by ORBIS volunteer medical professionals, attendance at conferences and a public awareness programme.
The overall objectives of the project over its three-year life span, are to expand and upgrade ophthalmic human resources through basic training and continuing medical education; to examine and treat approximately 10,000 children for eye problems; to support infrastructure and technology development for preventative and curative eye care services; to promote public awareness about children’s eye care, and eye care in general through mass media channels.
Miss Turner tells JIS News, that several aspects of the objectives in the areas of training of officials and the provision of equipment are being met and there is steady progress in other areas.
“One resident doctor received formal ophthalmology training at the State University of New York (SUNY) and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the United States”, she informs, noting that Dr. Vaughn attended the Storm Eye Institute in North Carolina and was supported to attend the regional ophthalmology society meeting in Barbados.
“Plans are being made for his continuing medical training at Moorefields Eye Institute in the United Kingdom,” she adds.
She further informs, that ORBIS volunteers at the Moorefields Eye Institute completed two hospital-based training programmes in Jamaica, during which 54 boys and girls were screened and examined for eye problems and 10 of them received much needed surgeries. Ophthalmologists, nurses and optometrists from Cornwall Regional, Mandeville, Kingston Public, University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) as well as from Bustamante participated in the programme.
Ophthalmologists, residents and nurses were also supported to attend the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) international conferences in New Orleans in the United States.
Equipment has also been forthcoming with the provision of two sets of the latest ophthalmology medical manuals, each valued at US$500, for the Basic Clinical Science course. Two computers and two digital cameras for case documentation and data management were also provided.
The project at this juncture can be aptly described as a work in progress with several areas still under development. These include: the renovation of the eye clinic, which is set to begin shortly; the training of biomedical technicians to begin in April and the provision of new ophthalmic equipment for the eye clinic and the operating room.
There will also be continuing medical education and mentorship of the ophthalmic staff via the ORBIS telemedicine programme and improvements will be made to the management of data collection to improve the practice of evidence-based medicine.
Meanwhile, Dr. McLeod points to ORBIS International as a reliable and positive force for the project, noting that the organization will continue to give its support to ensure the success of the venture.
She explains that, “ORBIS has provided financial and technical assistance to implement and support paediatric ophthalmology in the form of training, continuing education for various levels of ophthalmic staff and during the week of January 31 to February 4, ORBIS arranged for volunteer ophthalmology”.
Dr. McLeod expresses the hope that the project will stimulate investment for the improvement of health care delivery in the public and private sectors. In addition, she points to the improved facilities and services that will be available as the factors that will influence and encourage doctors and sponsors to build on the success of the paediatric eye care facility.
Once completed, the project will revolutionize the treatment of eye care in Jamaica. She says, “eye conditions that were not treated before will be treated, specialized care will become available in the public sector,” adding that well needed instruments and medical supplies will be provided to increase the quality of children’s eye care.
It will be very important to devise a sustainability plan for the continuation of the project and to ensure that improvements are made and Dr. McLeod points to the important role that the Ministry of Health will have to play in its sustenance.
“The project is a partnership with the Ministry of Health, therefore the trained staff of nurses, ophthalmologists and technicians, will remain after ORBIS funds are no longer available” she points out. Continuing, she adds “the management of the hospital is likely to continue, as the standards of paediatric eye care would have been established over the life of the three-year project”. Furthermore she says, “continuous case review, project monitoring, quality improvement, and quality assurance contribute to building the capacity and competencies through constant interaction and expert technical assistance”.
The future seems bright for our young ones and the paediatric eye care project seems on course to building a reputable children’s eye care treatment service in Jamaica. It is anticipated that the philanthropic venture will attract other local investors to participate in the provision of children’s eye care services in Jamaica and at the Bustamante Hospital, which is the only children’s hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean.

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