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 Health  Ghana Project #5195

Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

by Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

After exchanging hearty hellos and hugs with ophthalmologist friends old and new, Drs. John Pajka and Amit Tandon, jump into their scrubs, stroll cautiously into their respective surgical theaters, fist bump their ophthalmic nursing teams and carefully inspect the operation of their surgical microscopes.

Here at the Korle Bu Training Hospital in Accra, Ghana, the pair spent  HCP supported surgical staff, Dr. Gladys Fordjour, Dr. Dziffa Ofori-Adjei, Dr. Adam Yakubu (Head of the Ophthalmology Dept.) and a group of surgical residents. Their shared goal for the week is to provide hands-on instruction and training in the latest phacoemulsification surgery techniques. Throughout the week the two doctors helped get local doctors up to speed on phaco and treated almost 100 cases of cataracts. 

HCP began its partnership with Korle Bu Training Hospital in 2017 to strengthen its ophthalmic capacity by providing specialized training opportunities to its eye care personnel; supporting outreach efforts and providing supplies and equipment. 

This transfer and sharing of skills is at the center of an approach to strengthen and create sustainable systems of care in places like Ghana. By giving local ophthalmologists the tools they need to treat local populations with the latest techniques it allows them to earn a living from treating paying customers and create opportunities for them to provide care to those who cannot afford to pay. 

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In November, HCP’s Co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin joined a team of Ghanaian ophthalmologists to perform 851 sight-restoring surgeries at the Bolgatanga Presbyterian Regional Eye Center in the Upper East region. Bolgatanga has been an HCP partner since 2017 and this is the second successful NCOP event - the first was in November 2018 and provided 484 surgeries.

Cataracts are the leading cause of low-vision and blindness in Ghana. In an effort to address the backlog and improve cataract care at the national level, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), in collaboration with HCP, began the National Cataract Outreach Program (NCOP) in 2017 and established National Guidelines to bring care to all regions. The NCOP committee, comprised of private and government service providers and NGOs, divided the country into four zones and established one leader in each to coordinate annual events.

“I am very excited about our progress in Ghana,” Dr. Tabin said. “Bolgatanga is a wonderful center with an excellent lead doctor and incredible need in the area. I think it can become a high-volume center of excellence in cataract surgery and a great place for residents from both KATH and Korle-Bu.”

Since NCOP’s pilot phase in October 2017, 5,177 surgeries have been provided across 24 campaigns. In 2018, the NCOP completed 1,889 surgeries, and in 2019 to-date, NCOP has completed 2,501 surgeries, putting them on target for 3,000 by the end of the year.

"I'm so excited to have participated in this very successful event in Bolgatanga,” Dr. Seth Lartey, consulting ophthalmic surgeon at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and NCOP Zonal Leader, said. “This is a great example of what we wanted to achieve in developing the National Cataract Outreach Program in 2017 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, which is to make high quality eye care accessible to all Ghanaians!!"

Drs. Tabin and Lartey joined two other NCOP zonal leaders, Dr. Seth Wayne and Dr. Mercy Dawson; local ophthalmologist in Bolgatanga, Dr. Lordson Dagba; and Dr. John Hinkle, HCP’s Global Fellow.

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One of HCP’s newest partners in Ghana, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH), forever changed the lives of nearly 200 people.

At the end of July, CCTH held a three day bus-in event where they provided 183 surgeries. The interdisciplinary team, led by Drs. Benedicta Appiah-Thomspon, Sylvia Brookman, and Sarpong Abrebrese, provided quality eye care, building on their experience over the past six months as well as their recent participation in specialized training - Expanding Access to High Quality Eye Care in West Africa: Clinical Skills and Outreach Management Training (for more information about this training, click here).

Already this year, CCTH has hosted two cataract campaigns and participated in another resulting in 940 surgeries. Applying new knowledge and enhanced skills gleaned from training events, CCTH is looking forward to celebrating World Sight Day in October by hosting their next high volume cataract surgery campaign, where they anticipate providing 500 surgeries. With HCP’s overall goal of supporting 10,000 surgeries at outreach events throughout Ghana this year, CCTH is well positioned to make a significant contribution to the alleviation of the curable blindness backlog in the country.

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The role of training has always been central to the work of the HCP, particularly because we recognize that quality surgery must be the cornerstone of an effort to address cataract blindness and the vast majority of surgery must be performed by trained local personnel. This perspective underlies our every effort to train local providers at all levels – from sub-specialty ophthalmologists to nurses to equipment technicians. Dr. G. Fordjour from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana is one such example.

From the central region of Ghana, Dr. Fordjour attended the University of Ghana Medical School and the Stanford Basic Ophthalmology course, she is a fellow of the West African College of Surgeons and Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. She first heard about HCP from doctors at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital so she was familiar with the organization when we began a partnership with Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, where she was based.

Dr. Fordjour works with HCP at outreach events and supports HCP training in Ghana, most recently with the International Council of Ophthalmology exams. Additionally, as a Cornea Subspecialist, she has participated in several hands-on cornea workshops in Ghana with HCP Co-Founder, Dr. Geoff Tabin, former HCP International Fellow, Dr. Neda Nikpoor and most recently with outgoing HCP International Fellow, Dr. Allison Jarstad.

When asked how these training opportunities helped her or impacted her work, Dr. Fordjour explained:

“For these trainings, Drs. Neda and Allison brought donor corneas to my eye center. So corneal patients who could otherwise not afford surgeries received excellent transplant surgeries. Which also gave me experience doing transplant surgeries, which we cannot normally do because of a lack of donated corneas.

For the future of eye care in Ghana, I hope every patient will have access to care. To be able to have doctors with every surgical skill plus equipment and consumables available to them within the country.”

Dr. Fordjour notes the National Cataract Program as an example of progress in strengthening Ghana's eye care systems.

“The National Cataract Program supported by HCP is making cataract surgery and, to some extent, other eye care interventions accessible to remote parts of the country.”

But what drives Dr. Fordjour is the joy of sight-restoration and the effect it has on her patients’ lives.

“The satisfaction of seeing smiles on the faces of those who were blind a few hours before makes everything worthwhile. Packing and leaving the family can be difficult sometimes and operating in less than ideal conditions is hard, but the smiles and happiness - that satisfaction should be felt by all who donate to help cure blindness.”


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Himalayan Cataract Project International Fellow, Dr. Allison Jarstad spent two weeks in Ghana this month conducting a cornea subspecialty training workshop with Cornea Specialist, Dr. Gladys Fordjour from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, with tissue donated by HCP Partner, SightLife. HCP's approach to eliminating needless blindness has always focused on building capacity at the local level. Sub-specialty, hands-on skills transfer experiences such as this are highly valuable.

The most exciting part of the week (other than helping so many patients regain sight) was to work with Dr. Gladys, who is a phenomenal and talented surgeon. Because tissue donation has not yet been improved in the country, there are no eye banks in Ghana. Because of this, Gladys must wait until surgeons from other countries visit and bring donated [cornea] tissue with them in order to do transplants.

Despite not being able to perform cornea transplant surgery on a regular basis, Gladys has excellent surgical technique and am happy to report that all surgeries were a success! She started learning Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) surgery just one year ago and her DSAEK case went perfectly.

I truly love teaching. It gives me so much excitement to watch someone else master a skill that I personally enjoy doing. What a rewarding experience that has been for both Dr. Gladys, her patients, and myself!

Here are some of those patient’s stories:

Korle Bu Patient Stories

Meet Leticia, a 17-year-old female high school student living in Koforidua, which is located in the eastern region of Ghana, about a four-hour drive from Accra. She is the 3rd of seven children in her family and was brought to the hospital by her mother. She had developed cataracts for unknown reasons (no report of trauma and did not seem to be congenital), and she had cataract surgery at a different hospital about five years ago. She had a complicated surgery in the right eye and an Anterior Chamber Intraocular Lens (ACIOL) was placed. Additionally, Leticia’s vision had never improved after her first cataract surgery so she developed pseudophakic bullous keratopathy. So we did an IOL exchange (removing the culprit lens and placing an iris-fixated lens) and a penetrating keratoplasty in the right eye. She said it has been difficult to do well in school because of her decreased vision. Leticia is very excited for her vision to improve after her cornea transplant and wants to continue to got to school and study to become a nurse.

Meet Princess, a 25-year-old nursery school teacher from Accra. She came in with a penetrating keratoplasty done about five years ago in India. This cornea failed and her vision began to become cloudy and blurry about two years ago, making it difficult for her to function at home and at work. She underwent a repeat cornea transplant and is doing very well. She is less than 1-week post-op and she can already see some of the small letters on the eye chart. She is so grateful for her new cornea and has a beaming smile. She is excited to go back to work.

Meet Samuel, a 19-year-old man who was born with a progressive disease of the cornea called, granular dystrophy. In this disease, small opacities develop within the cornea and over time, the opacities become very dense and affects the vision in both eyes. Samuel was blind in both eyes, he could see a hand waving in front of his face in one eye and could count fingers in front of his face in the other eye, but could not see anything on the eye chart. It was impossible for him to work. We did a cornea transplant where we removed the central part of his cornea (to remove the visually disabling opacities) and replaced it with a donor cornea. He is so happy and can see much better even just 1 week after surgery. We expect his vision to continue to improve as he heals from surgery.

Meet Francis, a 36-year-old man from Jirapa, a small town in the far northwest of Ghana. He was referred here for inability to see with both eyes and pain. He was found to have bilateral cataracts and corneal opacities. He traveled for 12 hours to come to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Francis is a tutor to medical nursing students and is excited to go back to work to help his students. He says God bless us and thank you so much for giving me my new eyes and asked immediately when the second eye could be done. When he was a university student he was interested in nursing and enjoyed reading and knowing more about disease conditions. Then he became interested in teaching others about it.

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Organization Information

Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.

Location: Waterbury, VT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @CureBlindness
Project Leader:
Geoff Tabin
Waterbury, VT United States
$33,867 raised of $50,000 goal
168 donations
$16,133 to go
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