The formal inauguration of the Eye Center at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana, took place on Tuesday, February 25. The event was well-attended by Ghanaian dignitaries, project partners and members of the press.
Ghana’s Minister of Health, Ms. Sherry Ayittey, saluted the various partners for their contribution to the facility and said she found it refreshing that the facility would train more eye care professionals to overcome the distribution imbalance of eye care personnel in Ghana. The country has a population of 24 million with only 74 ophthalmologists concentrated in the urban areas with an estimated 240,000 blind.
To mark the facility’s completion, KATH organized a cataract and cornea surgical workshop in the days leading up to the inauguration. KATH’s clinical team managed multiple screening events in three different districts to draw patients from nine communities. Patients were bussed to the new facility for surgery and then recovered in the new patient wards. In total, 160 cataract surgeries (including 20 patients who were bilaterally blind) and six corneal transplant surgeries were provided. With the new facility complete KATH anticipates replicating this type of outreach event at least once a month in an effort to increase patient examinations and surgical volume.
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.
Himalayan Cataract Project International Fellow Dr. Zvi Kresch is at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi for six weeks to lecture ophthalmology residents, provide hands-on surgical training, and specific expertise in uveitis. He participated in World Sight Day activities by working at a small outreach at St. Martin’s Catholic Hospital that provided 17 cataract surgeries and by going on local radio to raise awareness about eye diseases and the efforts at KATH to address and combat those diseases.
HCP has contributed to the training of KATH clinicians, administrators and residents through follow-up visits by HCP affiliated ophthalmologists and personalized trainings. Sustainable eye care requires local staffing of ophthalmologists, eye care workers and administrators and necessitates ensuring top rate training and education at all levels. HCP trains local eye care teams with methodologies optimized for the developing world. This allows for the expansion of efficient eye care delivery, an increased number of patients treated, and an increased number of trained eye care specialists who can then train future eye care providers.