The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) has been busy in the recent months in the Himalayas.
HCP Co-Founder Dr. Sanduk Ruit and an outreach team from Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, HCP's flagship partner in Nepal, provided sight restoring cataract surgery in September at the Leh Hospital in Ladakh, India. Ladakh — “land of high passes” — is a mountainous region of India and is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the state. This was a second visit by Dr. Ruit and his team, who provided 208 surgeries to patients. To read more about Dr. Ruit's first visit, please visit this link.
Just a month earlier, Dr. Ruit and his team held an outreach event in Yangon, Myanmar. Dr. Ruit's team worked with local eye care professionals, and together they provided 445 surgeries. The team held an additional outreach event in the town of Myeik, where 225 surgeries were provided.
In Nepal, the Hetauda Community Eye Hospital (HCEH), one of Tilganga's 12 eye care centers, conducted a screening workshop for more than 500 prisoners at the Bhimpedi Jail. Seven patients were referred for surgery and 25 pairs of glasses were prescribed and provided.
The cornerstone of Himalayan Cataract Project's work is in the teaching of local doctors and eye care professionals. In order to create a sustainable eye care system, top rate training of doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators is essential.
Dr. Joyce Maaweh, a third year Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) ophthalmology resident, traveled north to Tamale for hands-on surgical training with Dr. Judith Simon, Tamale Teaching Hospital’s Chief Ophthalmologist.
Dr. Maaweh also participated in an outreach cataract surgical event in a nearby town that provided 100 surgeries in four days — 20 of which Dr. Maaweh performed independently. As part of the Himalayan Cataract Project's commitment to enhancing the KATH residency training program and to attracting more Ghanaian doctors to ophthalmology, HCP will support six-week rotations for KATH residents at the Tamale Teaching Hospital.
Former Himalayan Cataract Project trainee, Dr. Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s first and only pediatric ophthalmologist, is taking advantage of the constellation vitrectomy machine purchased for Dr. Bhim Rai's retinal practice to facilitate cataract surgery for a five month old boy with congenital cataracts. Dr. Rai is also a former HCP trainee.
“It really made a difference in the post op compared to the old machine we had. The parents are very happy and grateful to HCP and the department. I had explained to them about how you all have helped us and how it has translated into better patient care and outcomes.” —Dr. Dechen Wangmo
The training and equipment that HCP provides to doctors, like Drs. Wangmo and Rai, is crucial in developing a sustainable health care system that functions effectively over the long-term with minimal external involvement.
In outreach news, the Hetauda Community Eye Hospital (HCEH) in Nepal conducted an eye screening workshop for more than 500 prisoners at Bhimphedi Jail outside of Hetauda, referring seven cataract patients for surgery and prescribing 35 pairs of glasses - 12 pairs purchased immediately. HCEH is upgrading its community screening programs to include refraction, and providing glasses instantly.
While the number of cataract cases has been reduced in the region, cases of refractive error have increased. Eyeglasses provide low-cost, effective help with refractive error; and the proceeds from sales of eyeglasses help to offset the costs associated with free patient care for all eye ailments.
Also in Nepal, the newly-constructed Phaplu Community Eye Center opened in June, 2014. Since 2003, it has provided eye care to more than 30,000. In the first half of 2014, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (HCP's partner in Nepal), with HCP support, conducted seven Outreach Microsurgical Eye Clinics (OMECS) in Nepal and one in India, providing 1,811 cataract surgeries.