The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ) is helping to end avoidable blindness in the Solomon Islands

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DEAR EDITOR, the Solomons National Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr John Hue said, recently, the country’s top causes for blindness and visual impairment is cataracts.

He said, “The top causes of blindness and visual impairment in the Solomon Islands in the age group of 40 years and above are cataracts meaning clouding of the natural lens in the eye.”

Other leading causes are refractive errors, he added.

Knowing that the Fred Hollows Foundation in New Zealand was responsible for the establishment of the Referral Eye Centre in Honiara and where much good work is being done daily to deal with patients with eye problems, I was interested to learn what the Foundation is currently doing to further aid the Solomon Islands Government and those suffering from visual impairment.

Laura McPike, the Project Officer from the Foundation, kindly responded to a query I made and referred me to the Foundation’s website from which I will quote to give readers an insight of what the New Zealand charity has done to appraise the situation of eye care needs and what is currently being done by way of training support.

Here are the relevant aspects:

“The Solomon Islands has a local eye care workforce who were trained by us at the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji and operate from various hospitals and eye clinics across the country.

“All Foundation-trained eye doctors and the majority of the Foundation-trained nurses are based at the Regional Eye Centre in Honiara which we built in 2015.

 “With this facility providing increased surgical capacity, the team is working towards eliminating the backlog of cataracts and helping to address other eye conditions.

 “An outreach team from Honiara provides support to the other eye nurses placed across the country, helping deliver eye care services to their communities.

“The clinic is off-the-grid, producing more energy than it can use through its solar panel system.”

 “In the Solomon Islands last year:

·         “Foundation-trained Dr Claude Posala, now Head of Department for Ophthalmology at the Regional Eye Centre, completed the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology’s Leadership Development Program in March 2017.

·         “A national survey assessing the rates of avoidable blindness was conducted in 2017. The results from this survey will provide valuable information which will help us assess the impact The Foundation has had on eye care in the country to date and inform the development of our programme going forward.

·         “Two doctors have begun training in ophthalmology at the Pacific Eye Institute. These doctors are expected to graduate in 2019 and 2021.

·         “We expect to meet our training targets for eye nurses by the end of this year. These targets are based on international standards using population size then adjusted according to the geographic spread of the population.”

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s aid is much appreciated and the Foundation thanked for the great work being done in the Solomon Islands.

 I will very much look forward to learning that the backlog of cataract cases has been cleared and the patients that have suffered for so long with cataracts are able to see again and go about their daily activities with restored vision.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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