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Eye-care centre off to flying start

Published:Friday | April 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

More than 330 persons with serious eye conditions have received treatment at the Jamaica/Cuba Ophthalmology Centre in Kingston since it started performing surgeries about a month ago.

Among them is 19-year-old Okeilo Downing, who is eager to return to school after having a cataract removed from his right eye on Wednesday.

Speaking after the 35-minute surgical procedure had ended, Downing said the cataract affected his vision and impacted his performance at school. "At school, we have the whiteboard with the marker. I wasn't seeing as well. Sometimes I had to go to the front and when (the teacher) used the red marker I couldn't see. I could only see when the teacher used a blue marker, so I was straining my eyes," he explained.

High praise

Downing said he had a similar operation on his left eye in Cuba under the Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Programme and said he would "definitely recommend the programme to anyone with an eye disease."

Meanwhile, another patient, Carolene Pryce, also had high praise for the work of the staff at the clinic, describing the service she received as "excellent."

Pryce was speaking after pre-operation preparation as she waited to have pterygium-removal surgery.

"The treatment I have received is A1. The nurses, the doctors, just about everybody who I've had to deal with, really make you feel comfortable and at home, and I think this is the way it should be. You are maybe not feeling pains all over but you are still considered sick. This is one of the most delicate organs of the body, so you need to have confidence," she said.

Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer, Cuban ambassador, His Excellency Yuri Gala Lopez, and other officials toured the facility located at the St Joseph's Hospital in Kingston, yesterday.

Free eye services

The facility which opened late January under the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Programme provides free eye-care services to Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals.

Spencer said he was very pleased with the operations of the centre and impressed by the number of surgeries that had already been conducted.

"They are not up to their optimal in terms of performing surgeries, so I can expect significantly more surgeries to be performed," said Spencer, adding that the project was an example of what could be achieved through collaboration.

Ambassador Lopez lauded the collaboration between the governments of Cuba and Jamaica on the project. He noted that the centre was completed just six months after the co-operation agreement between the countries was signed.

"We are very happy and we look forward to the continued success of this beautiful project that will benefit the Jamaican people and some other nationals from the region," he said.