In December, Himalayan Cataract Project's partner in Nepal, the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology's outreach team organized an Outreach Microsurgical Eye Clinic (OMEC) in Nuwokot, Nepal. The team screened 3,763 patients and provided 306 cataract surgeries. The outreach team included trainees from Myanmar, Ethiopia and Australia. Each year the Tilganga outreach team provides close to 10,000 surgeries outside of the main hospital in Kathmandu.
In October, HCP's co-founder, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, led a team from Tilganga to manage outreach cataract events in Bhutan and northern India. The group worked with local surgeons and paramedical staff in both locations. A total of 388 cataract surgeries were provided; 257 in Bhutan and 131 in northern India.
In Bhutan, Dr. Ruit and Royal Highness Princess Kezang Wangmo Wanhchuk jointly inaugurated the Eye Bank at the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, which will serve corneal patients and play an important role in addressing corneal blindness in Bhutan. To read more about the Eye Bank, please visit this link: http://www.kuenselonline.com/bhutan-embarks-on-eye-bank-venture/#.VMj3bmTF8Sg.
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.
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.
The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, HCP’s legacy partner in Nepal, recently organized an Outreach Microsurgical Eye Clinic (OMEC) in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, one of the world’s most remote places. Upper Mustang is hidden in the shadows of the Himalayas and for centuries was isolated from the rest of Nepal. Tilganga began working in this region in 2009.
During this most recent campaign, sight was restored to an elderly woman who had been blind for eight years and trekked to the campaign on horseback, accompanied by her 21-year-old grandson. Following bilateral surgery, the patient could see her grandson’s face, and proudly walked back to her home.
Another outreach event was held In early April by the Phaplu Community Eye Center (CEC), in the Solukumbo region of Nepal. 1,498 patients were examined and 80 cataract surgeries were provided. Run by a five-person staff, the Phaplu CEC is overseen by Tilganga and realized a 6% increase in patient care in 2013. The Himalayan Cataract Project is supporting the construction of the two-story, six-room community eye center, with help from the Nancy Allison Perkins Foundation, as the original Phaplu CEC had outgrown its facility. Construction is expected to be completed by June 2014.
Himalayan Cataract Project International Fellow Dr. Ben Thomas participated in an outreach event in a small town in the Dhading district of Nepal. Dr. Thomas worked alongside Dr. Anu Manandhar (former HCP fellow) of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, and performed 30 surgeries. The outreach was sponsored by Tilganga and the Fred Hollows Foundation and held at a local school; surgeries and follow-up care were all performed within classrooms.
Outreach teams often reach inaccessible areas by foot and more often than not arrive to communities with no electricity and minimal sanitation and potable water. Within a matter of hours, the team can turn a dusty schoolhouse, or whatever building is available, into an equivalent medical ward where sight-restoring surgery is carried out to comparable standards found in the developed world.
Even in remote areas, the consistent goal of the team is to provide the highest quality eye care to as many people as possible and perform as many surgeries as possible. The eye camp ophthalmologists seek to treat everyone they can with a treatable eye disease.
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