By OGIA MIAMEL
A recent survey revealed that Papua New Guinea has an estimated national prevalence rate of 5.6 per cent of blindness, says PNG Eye Care deputy chief ophthalmologist Dr Jambi Garap.
Garap said the first national rapid assessment of avoidable blindness (RABB) percentage translated into 40,000-plus adults of 50 years and over being blind in both eyes and 70,000 in one eye.
“The commonest cause of blindness is cataract and the need to wear glasses. So that means in PNG cataract surgery can be done, but if you look at the 40,000 against the 14 or less doctors there is a big task,” she said.
“They need a team of doctors to work with and they need things that they need to work with, consumables which are expensive. It will be about doing one cataract surgery for about K100, if we got everything together for one person.”
She said other challenges apart from up skilling doctors to carry out cataract surgery include infrastructure, upgrading the theatre with microscopes and instruments and a fulltime eye team.
“For the people out there in PNG they just need to make sure that they bring their parents for an eye test. If you are living in a town or city where there is an eye doctor you need to bring your parents or the elderly to have an eye check.
“If you need an operation, they need to be operated and it actually improves the quality of life for these sorts of people,” she said.
She urged diabetes clinics to conduct eye tests because diabetic patients will eventually lose their eyesight as a result of the high sugar level in their blood.
The RABB was funded by Fred Hollows Foundation and conducted by National Prevention of Blindness Committee, PNG
Eye Care and Brien Holden Vision Institute.
By OGIA MIAMEL