‘Miracle’ eye care programme set for January resumption

ALL being well, the ‘Miracle Operation’ Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care programme should be up and running again by the start of 2023.

The popular programme — sponsored, manned, and managed by the Government of Cuba — was suspended at the height of the novel cornavirus pandemic in 2021, and medical personnel returned to their homeland after years of treating thousands of Jamaicans with acute eye challenges.

Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica Fermin Quinones Sanchez, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last Tuesday, expressed joy that the programme will resume as soon as certain logistics are sorted out.

“We are working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to resume as soon as possible, which we hope to be by the start of January next year,” the socialist country’s senior envoy in Kingston stated. “It is a very important programme for the Jamaican people — for the vulnerable population — that was stopped because of COVID and nothing else.

“The Jamaican Government has received assurance from the Cuban Government that as soon as things here are ready, we will be ready,” Quinones Sanchez said.

Under the programme, procedures were carried out at three locations in the Corporate Area — National Chest Hospital, St Joseph’s Hospital, and the Kingston School of Nursing — and from all indications at least the first two aforementioned venues will be used upon the resumption of services.

Last week, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton visited the Cuban capital Havana to discuss that and other matters with high-ranking officials of the large Caribbean country with a population base of 11.3 million.

Six months ago in April the Sunday Observer reported that over 3,000 people were waiting for over six months to do surgical procedures.

The much in-demand programme, which once began by Jamaica sending patients to Cuba, changed its flavour after the Cuban Government decided to relocate its optical personnel to Jamaica — a move seen by officials as not only cutting the cost of airfare and accommodation in Cuba, but also provided the opportunity to reach more affected people on local soil.

The programme began on August 26, 2005 and has treated over 100,000 Jamaicans in the 16 years of its existence.

Since its suspension late last year, Cuban embassy officials said they have been inundated with telephone calls and enquiries across social media platforms about whether or not the programme had ceased for good or, if not, when it would resume.

“Every single day we get phone calls at the embassy,” Quinones Sanchez revaled to the Sunday Observer. “When you check Facebook, Instagram and so on, the same questions are being asked.

“A lot of people are in need of having the programme in place, and Cuba is very proud that we will be part of the solution of the many Jamaicans who need surgery and treatment. Cuban doctors are here to work and support the Jamaican health-care system. Full stop!

“The relationship between Jamaica and the people of Cuba goes beyond borders — more than 200 years. We are sister nations and we need to support each other. We gave our support through health-care and the people of Jamaica have been supporting Cuba — especially in our battle against the US blockade — and this is what we thank them for,” Quinones Sanchez stated.

Over 100,000 surgeries have been conducted over the life of the Jamaican operations. At last count there were around 20 specialists and technicians operating in Jamaica under the programme.

There are 47 other centres in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

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