500 eye patients benefit from cataract camp mission

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Five hundred ophthalmology patients in the southern region over the weekend benefited from cataract surgeries at the Mandeville Regional Hospital courtesy of the Florida-based Mind, Body and Soul ministry.

The annual initiative has been lauded by consultant ophthalmologist at the Mandeville Regional Hospital Dr Gavin Henry and state minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn for drastically reducing the waiting list at the hospital’s ophthalmology department.

Dr Henry, who heads the ophthalmology department at the Mandeville Regional, said the mission performed 500 cataract surgeries from October 22 to 24 at the hospital.

“We had a waiting list going up to a 1,000 persons and they have been able [to], in three days, [reduce] that to half, that allows us a little bit of breathing space to be able to tackle what’s left,” he said at the closing ceremony for the cataract camp mission on Monday.

Since 2014, the mission has performed 1,455 cataract surgeries at the hospital. For the past two years the mission was suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Cuthbert-Flynn said the cataract surgeries are vital to reducing people’s risk of visual impairment.

“[It] has resulted in six years of free cataract surgeries. The estimate from the World Health Organization is that worldwide, in 2022, some 2.2 billion people are affected by vision impairment and in more than half of those cases the impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed,” she said.

“We heard some of those stories that during the COVID-19 [pandemic] a number of patients who were on the waiting list are now visually impaired,” she added.

President of the Mind, Body and Soul health ministry Dr Hillary Morgan said the mission hopes to expand across the country.

“One of the goals of the mission’s ministry is to touch every parish in Jamaica to help,” she said.

Dr Henry said the mission would have helped to give the ophthalmology department a boost in clearing its waiting list.

He added that the novel coronavirus pandemic would have rendered a devastating effect to the department.

“We probably have about 10 to 20 patients coming onto the list every day. What has happened since COVID-19 came on is that we have had to cancel a lot of surgeries as a result patients whose vision was severely compromised went even worse. There were some studies done approximately 10 years ago, which indicated that about 85 per cent of the patients on our cataract list were only able to count fingers or worse,” he said.

Dr Henry said uncontrolled diabetes is a big instigator of cataract formation.

“… so control of your diabetes [and] exposure to the sun. We usually advocate that persons have protective eye wear for the sun, because chronic exposure to the sun, unprotected, is one the instigators for cataract formation as well,” he said.

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