(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – Healthcare workers engaged in a high level capacity building programme overseas enabling them too effectively and efficiently manage diabetic retinopathy conditions on island.
In the month of May 2018 a group of 12 health technocrats visited the Frimely Park Hospital in the United Kingdom. The aim of the visit was to acquire new skills, techniques and knowledge in order to deal with the newly implemented diabetic retinopathy program in Saint Lucia. National Ophthalmologist in the Ministry of Health Dr. Darra Burt explains.
“Part of the group spent one week there and the second part we spent 2 weeks there. The team consisted of screeners, graders, ophthalmologist, HMIS representative, a representative from the Ministry of Health, one from nursing and we made up the diabetic retinopathy screening program team. It’s a new program which we just started to screen all patients with diabetes to identify blindness as a form of blindness prevention. So we did an exchange program with the team from Frimley Park National Hospital, we were linked with them through the vision 20/20 links program and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and we visited the institution and there we were broken up into smaller groups, each group going with a group from the hospital to learn and to share the skills and what role they play in the program”.
Dr. Burt added that diabetes retinopathy is a major cause of morbidity in persons living with diabetes and is among the most common causes of sight loss in the working age population. In this regard the Ministry of Health is doing everything within its power to provide timely treatment which would delay or prevent complete blindness.
“In Saint Lucia the amount of people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes is on the rise and these days’ people are living longer so we are seeing a rise in a complication of the diabetes which is diabetes retinopathy. So it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the Western world and what happens is it is totally avoidable so that’s why we have along with the Queen Elizabeth trust fund we have timely treatment to prevent blindness”.
Meanwhile, coordinator of the diabetic retinopathy program, Nurse Sharon Tench-Norbal is encouraging citizens to take advantage of this free eye screening and treatment opportunity.
“It’s a wonderful program, it’s free of charge and I know that we have a lot of diabetes in Saint Lucia and I’m encouraging all persons to come in and get their eyes screened, it’s free of charge. They can get referred if there is a problem and the most enticing thing about it is that the laser which is very expensive at a private institution is free of charge. You can get it done right here. So I am encouraging persons to come in and get screened”.
Persons can make an appointment at their nearest Health Centre and receive a referral to the Castries or Vieux Fort Wellness Centres where the screening and grading procedures are conducted.