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Putting Vision First – A message for World Sight Day 2019

In its quest to become the best place to work, learn and receive safe, patient-centred healthcare, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is establishing centres of excellence in certain specialist areas of care, one of which is the Department of Ophthalmology. This department provides specialist care in general ophthalmology, paediatric, glaucoma, neurosurgical, and ocuplastics care, and is the only eye care facility in the Caribbean with the capacity to provide Vitreoretinal Surgery, Oculoplastics, Glaucoma Care, Cornea & External Eye Diseases, Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Neuro-Ophthalmology and Paediatric Ophthalmology.

With patient care at the fore, the Ophthalmology Department has garnered a stellar reputation for the delivery of superior ophthalmic care to patients. This is due in part to several initiatives undertaken to better meet the requirements of the population and provide greater access to ophthalmic care. These include the commissioning of an ophthalmic out-patient clinic which sees in excess of 20,000 patients annually; the performance of approximately 1,700 ophthalmic surgeries annually; and the enactment of a Cataract Initiative in 2017, which reduced the backlog of 537 patients who were awaiting cataract surgery at that time. More recently however, the Department joined forces with Bill Tempro, a legally blind World Champion Sailor, and the Barbados Sailing Association to raise $500,000 through the Sail for Sight fundraising initiative. The realisation of this goal will facilitate the completion of dedicated Eye Theatres on the 3rd floor of the Lions Eye Care Centre, increasing the surgical capacity of the department and resulting in a reduction in the wait time for patients awaiting ophthalmic surgical interventions. However, although the QEH has the capacity in regards to specialist trained ophthalmic care providers and improved outpatient facilities, there are a number of factors which continue to contribute to preventable blindness.

Preventable blindness is a problem of global proportions. The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics indicate that glaucoma, is the second most common cause of blindness worldwide with 4.5 million blind due to glaucoma globally, and that figure is expected to rise to 11.2 million by the year 2020. In addition to glaucoma, cataract remains the leading cause of blindness globally, and diabetes is becoming increasingly common around the world, in the Caribbean, and in Barbados. As the prevalence of diabetes increases in our population (currently estimated at 17% of the adult population), so do its eye related complications for eg. cataract, diabetic retinopathy (DR) and neovascular glaucoma. It is estimated that 35.6 out of every 1,000 people in Barbados have diabetes and research indicates that approximately one-third of persons living with diabetes in the Caribbean are affected by eye disease.

To combat the rising incidences of eye disease the Ministry of Health through a collaborative process has developed the National Eye Care Policy and Strategic Plan 2014-2019. The goal of this policy is to provide a framework for the elimination of avoidable blindness and visual impairment, a commitment Barbados made when it adopted VISION 2020 goals. Overall, the desired result is to strengthen the delivery of ophthalmological services at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of the health care system. The Ophthalmology Department of the QEH is committed to fulfilling its role in the achievement of this global initiative to: “Intensify and accelerate prevention of blindness activities so as to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020.” To this end we invite you to join us as we commemorate World Sight Day 2019.

Help us combat the rising prevalence of eye disease in Barbados. Put your “Vision First.” Visit an eye care professional and have a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years.

Barbados’s future is bright. It would be a shame if you were unable to see it.

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