Mobile eye clinic for Fiji a first
The Fred Hollows Foundation says access is a huge hurdle for people with eye problems and it hopes a new mobile clinic will reach more people in remote areas.
The Fred Hollows Foundation says access is a huge hurdle for people with eye problems and it hopes a new mobile clinic will reach more people in remote areas in Fiji.
The head of the Foundation, Andrew Bell, told Jenny Meyer the new clinic is a first for the Pacific region and he hopes it will bring huge health benefits to people throughout the country as it can screen people for for both avoidable blindness and diabetes.
ANDREW BELL: The patients that get cataract blindness in particular are elderly quite often, they're blind, so they can't move around easily and so the simple case of access to a clinic becomes increasingly an issue. So this is very ambitious for us we've never done this before. But we're really anticipating that this is going to make a huge difference to the delivery of services in Fiji.
JENNY MEYER: So what does the clinic look like, is it a bus or a trailer or how does it work?
AB: Yes so it's not a bus. So for those that are interested in the technical details, it's an integrated pneumatic suspension so it'll be able to kneel like you might have seen a bus kneel and it will sit down on it's haunches because stability is critical to ophthalmology. And so it will be able to sit down when it gets there. But if you can imagine a really, really big shipping container with two windows in it, you sort of like get an idea. So it's a big colourful container that's on wheels but it needs a primary mover to move it around from A to B it doesn't have an engine on it like a bus.
JM: And what are your hopes for the clinic? How many small communities and towns do you hope to reach say in a year?
AB: Ideally we would go to a place for a month. And in the Pacific because of the cyclone season really the months of December and January are not high activity months from a health care point of view. So we anticipate that it will be mainly working for ten months of the year. And if you go to a place for a month we anticipate that that is how long it's going to be there to really gather all the patients that are in that area, it will go to ten different venues in a year. As I say it's new for us and it's definitely new for any Pacific Island country. So it will take time to get to know how it works, how best it works, how best to get the patients to it. But we also anticipate that we will be able to run a small commuter service so a small minivan will be able to go out to out lying villages and literally pick up patients to bring them in.
We'll have a team of nurses who will be screening patients doing basic triage and vision acuity and through that process and the eye examination they really will be looking for people who have just got refractive error, and 70 per cent of vision impairment is just a person needing a pair of specs, and we're able to supply those. Part of the patient load will be people who need surgical intervention, primarily cataract. But also because of the burden of diabetes across the Pacific and specifically in Fiji, we anticipate that about 50 per cent of the patient load once we get it really underway will be diabetes related. So half of this facility is a surgical theatre, the other half has laser treatment capacity to treat patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy. So we anticipate that it's going to have a really big primary health care impact because it's going to be screening patients for eye disease but also for diabetes.
Fred Hollows Foundation head, Andrew Bell, says the new clinic should be in operation early next year.
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