No fewer than 100 indigent patients living with cataract and other visual impairments are to benefit from free treatment by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, in collaboration with Vision Care, a South Korea-based NGO.
Prof. Adewale Oke, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of LASUTH, represented by the Director Clinical Services and Training of LASUTH, Dr Ibrahim Mustapha, made the disclosure at a news conference on Monday in Lagos.
The news conference, with theme: “Free Cataract Operation 2018” was organised by LASUTH and supported by Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Nigeria Ltd and X-pression.
According to www.mayoclinic.org, a cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye; for people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.
“Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face.
“Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on but with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision.
“At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you to deal with cataracts but if impaired vision interferes with your usual activities, you might need cataract surgery. Fortunately, cataract surgery is generally a safe, effective procedure,’’ it says.
Oke said, “This partnership is no doubt a beneficial one. We have made it an annual mission to reach out to those who are affected by cataract and glaucoma in their early stages before they become complicated and more difficult to remedy.
“This mission commenced about four years ago with high success rate recorded; in 2017 for instance, about 100 indigent patients were operated on and it was a success story.
“This time around, we plan to have at least 100 indigent patients to be taken care of.’’
Also, the Head of Ophthalmology Department, LASUTH, Dr Modupe Idris, said that cataract had been the major cause of irreversible blindness in Nigeria.
“In Nigeria about 4.25 million people go blind due to cataract, that is why each year we have more than enough patients to work on.
“We try as much as we can to operate on as many patients as we can but majority of our patients are indigents.’’
She said that the group would also be training some doctors in LASUTH on ophthalmology care.
“This time around, it is not just going to be surgery only that the group will focus on.
`They are also going to train our doctors; so, instead of our patients going to Korea for the surgery, they will be treated here,’’ she said.
On the most common causes of cataract, Idris said they include aging, diabetes mellitus, trauma and use of steroids.
Responding, Dr Dong-Hae Kim, Founder, Vision Care, identified shortage of doctors and inadequate budgeting for the health sector by government as major challenges.
“We have noticed that there are gaps in the hospital; the population in Nigeria is overwhelming, the doctors are not enough to treat cataract patients.
“Also, there is gap between the low and high income earners; the low groups cannot afford to pay for the cost of their surgery.
“So, there is need for government to invest more in the sector by providing insurance for people who cannot afford to pay for their services,” Kim said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Korean VisionCare team had carried out several free cataract surgeries between 2015 and 2017.
It had successfully operated about 350 patients and carried out about 1,033 consultations in LASUTH.