Offering quality eye care and surgery to the community and training eye professionals.
Describe the need affecting community
There is a huge need for eye care delivery in Sierra Leone, a country of about six million people with only three ophthalmologists in the entire country. The Lowell and Ruth Gess UMC Eye Hospital is now the largest and best equipped eye care facility in the country. In this post-Ebola period, the Gess Eye Hospital has been instrumental in diagnosing the residual effects of Ebola on the eye. The life of the Ebola virus in body fluids is unknown although it is know to remain in the eye after the person no longer exhibits symptoms of the disease. The Eye Hospital has been at the forefront of treating the condition, Uveitis, which presents in patients who have survived Ebola. The Eye Hospital is now preparing to host a research team from Emory University who will concentrate on defining the life of the virus in the eye. This study will require an infectious disease diagnosis and treatment facility within the eye hospital which will serve well into the future should other infectious diseases present themselves.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
The staff is scheduling two trips a week if the weather permits, which they bring in patients. The patients are screened in the villages and if medical treatment is needed they are brought to the eye hospital, housed and fed while they are recovering from medical treatment, and transported back to their homes. The need is tremendous. Our goal is to expand this program so that many more people can receive treatment. Funding, of course, is the major need.
Describe the primary goal of the project
The primary goal of this project is to ensure the highest quality of eye care delivered to the people of Sierra Leone. Quality surgery with exceptional surgical outcomes has been the mantra of the program throughout all the years of its existence. Most recently, the Gess UMC Eye Hospital has been at the forefront in the research being conducted on Ebola survivors. The eye hospital daily treats patients in whom the Ebola virus persists after the individual no longer tests positive for Ebola. In addition, through the use of a donated computerized portable projection system, the eye hospital is currently developing a Glaucoma Awareness Program which will be presented throughout the country to educate people about this “silent thief” of vision. The long-term effects of this program are numerous: Delivery of quality eye care; expansion of quality eye care; and, increasing the number of people to whom care is made available are primary goals. Support of research in the area of infectious disease has been added in response to the Ebola virus and its effect on the delivery of eye care.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
We would like to see that more people will be afforded the opportunity for eye care. Through greater availability, it is hoped that blindness from glaucoma can be eradicated; cataract surgery can be made available to more people regardless of their area of residence or ability to pay; and that general eye health care can reach more people in the rural areas of the country.