Volunteers speedup eye ops

2012-07-02 00:00

A FAMILY of volunteer doctors from India has been tackling the huge backlog of patients awaiting cataract surgery in the Ugu District.

Their special cataract camp, held at Scottburgh’s GJ Crookes Hospital from Monday to Friday last week, saw over 500 patients screened and almost 200 operated on.

Ophthalmologists Arun, Reena and Vaibhav Sethi, of the Arunodaya Deseret Eye Hospital in Delhi, are a family team.

They are doctors from a private practice who volunteer their time to operate on patients who cannot afford eye surgery around India and abroad.

Said Arun: “My wife, Reena, and I started this programme in 1991 and our children were brought up in that culture and joined us after they qualified.

“There are many people who cannot afford treatment for curable blindness.”

Reena added: “It is a very gratifying and humbling experience to be able to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.

“It is also very professionally satisfying because the challenging cases come from those patients who cannot afford the treatment.”

Arun said that 90% of the patients who were operated on during the week needed the surgery three years ago.

“This alone is indicative of the huge backlog in this area.”

Due to limited capital and human resources the list of patients grew considerably in the area.

The Ugu Health District and dedicated local NGOs went into partnership to organise the high volume camp and arranged for the foreign doctors to be a part of it.

Patients from the four hospitals in the district, GJ Crookes, Port Shepstone General, St Andrews and Murchison were treated.

While the hospitals occasionally perform eye surgery, they do not have in-house ophthalmologists.

Surgeries can be performed only when doctors from other hospitals in the province or private practice make themselves available.

“We have had excellent participation from about six doctors from other hospitals and private practice during this camp,” said Arun.

“More private doctors need to be motivated to come forward and perform these surgeries to ease this backlog on a continued basis.”

Ugu district doctor Femi Olowookorun said the team had performed almost as many operations last week compared to the entire district in one year.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to skill our nursing staff with the instruments and procedures.

“We now have the skill to do this sort of thing on an ongoing basis.”

General nursing staff volunteered their time during the week to assist at the camp.

“We have been most impressed with the commitment and dedication by the nursing staff over this week,” said Reena.

“It was an enjoyable experience to be here and we will definitely be coming back again.”

Eighty-four-year-old Jackie Scheepers, of Scottburgh, said she had been waiting for more than three years to have surgery done.

“I have been referred all over the place, but because of the huge waiting list I still haven’t had my surgery done,” she said.

“These doctors are amazing and have done a great job. They worked tirelessly from early in the morning until late at night. Some days they even skipped their lunch break just so they could see more patients.”

Vaibhav said he felt honoured to be a part of the camp with his parents.

“Old people need care and love. As young doctors we need to not only focus on making money but also giving back to society.

“It has been great being here but we didn’t get out at all. We are here just for the week to work and then it’s back to India.”

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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