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Barbados Today : Eye Care Boost
May 15, 2023 : The QEH received from the Sail for Sight Charity a Topcon Dri-OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) Plus machine valued at approximately BDS$215,000. The OCT provides a non-invasive method to image the eye for the diagnosis of multiple eye-conditions including glauoma. Barbados is the only country in the Eastern Caribbean to have such a machine and it will greatly improve the ability of the Opthalmology doctors to save the vision of many. Inset, Dr. The Honorable Sonia Browne, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness has her eyes imaged by the machine.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) now has an advanced, high-tech imaging machine which could have a significant impact on eye care in Barbados.

Welcoming the Topcon Dri-OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) Plus machine from the Sail for Sight Charity, consultant Dr Sherwin Benskin said the QEH could possibly be the first hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean with the unique type of equipment which was pivotal for the diagnosis of multiple eye conditions because of its non-invasive nature.

The machine was presented to the hospital on Monday by the charity which raised money for its purchase.

Dr Benskin who was head of the Ophthalmology Department when Sail for Sight was launched in 2018, said while OCTs have been in existence for over 15 years, they have got progressively better.

“This one is quite advanced, and so you can almost image the layers of the eye at a microscopic level, which is quite impactful,” he said.
“It is non-invasive, the patient actually rests their chin on a machine and the machine scans light into the patient‘s eyes and that is interpreted with a computer inside as an image.”

He explained that the OCT machine was pivotal in identifying multiple eye conditions including glaucoma, which is prevalent in Barbados.
“The OCT can image the optic nerve and we know that glaucoma, which is high pressure in the eye, impacts on the optic nerve by destroying nerve fibres. The OCT can provide a quite in-depth look at the optic nerve and can also give quantitative data on optic nerve damage progression, monitoring of treatment and the success of surgery,” Dr Benskin added.

Prior to the donation of the equipment, eye imaging had to be outsourced with either the patients or the QEH paying. Minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Dr Sonia Browne also told the presentation ceremony that patients seeking eyecare will benefit significantly from use of the machine.

“The majority of patients you will see in the eye clinic are usually diabetics or hypertensives with the attendant complications to the eye. It can only benefit us. This is basically the only tertiary care ophthalmology department on island, so we end up seeing both secondary and tertiary care patients. My wish is to see the primary care setting outfitted with such [equipment] so that the backlog would be lessened.”

The minister said the key to reducing the high incidents of NCDs in the country is for patients with diabetes especially, to pay greater attention to eye care.

“All diabetics should have their eyes checked at least yearly, “ she said.

Dr Browne also noted that measures are being implemented to ensure that the process of donating to the QEH is a smooth and seamless undertaking. She said that financial support and donations of equipment and supplies were critical to institutions, but several persons seeking to donate to the QEH in the past have encountered stumbling blocks.

Speaking during Monday’s presentation she said that though QEH was the only public hospital on the island, philanthropy was vital and necessary for the institution to maintain its high level of care.

“We have recognized over the years that several people who had attempted to give to the hospital, whether it be of kind or finance or equipment, there were a few stumbling blocks in their way and some even got frustrated enough to pull back on the efforts that they were attempting to make. So we are trying to put things in place where the process of donating to the QEH is as seamless as we can possibly get it,” she said.

“The QEH recognizes that people also have different capacities to give and varying reasons to give to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Many have given as a result of having experienced firsthand or through a relative, the care given by our staff; and this is not limited to doctors and nurses but includes all staff.

“The QEH recognizes these varying capacities for giving and is creating more seamless portals through which the community, locally and abroad, can become involved in giving and giving back,” Dr Browne said.

Chairman of Sail for Sight Charity, Dick Stoute, said the funds used to purchase the equipment were raised through various initiatives. He explained that BDS$5 000 was raised through tee-shirt sales, a Soca for Sight Dance generated BDS$40 000 and a silent auction held along with the dance raised another $18 000.

Stoute said that individual and corporate donations amounted to BDS$162 000. A total of BDS$228 000 was raised.

On October 19, 2018, Bill Tempro, an experienced 75-year-old sailor who has suffered vision loss, sailed around the island solo as his contribution to the fundraising effort.

“It’s a pleasure now to say we can close Sail for Sight,” Stoute said as he extended gratitude to those who supported the initiative in varied ways.

Article originally published by Barbados Today May 16, 2023

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