Australian eye specialists offer Samoan patients volunteer service

APIA: A visiting team of Australian volunteer eye specialists funded by the Australian Government will spend seven days at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital offering free eye surgery and treatment.

The ophthalmology specialist team will be offering cataract surgery and other eye procedures at no cost to Samoans.

Optometrists will also be available to test eyesight and distribute spectacles for those who need them.

The team includes surgeons Dr Nitin Verma and Dr Mike Haybittel, optometrist Ms Surabhi Verma and nurses Ms Jenny Hodder and Ms Andrea Schuumans. It will be based at the hospital from 11 – 17 December 2011. The visit is arranged by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and funded by AusAID.

Patients with conditions including cataracts, vision impairment, eye injuries as well as other conditions should contact their local health care centre or health care worker for a referral. For more information, patients can contact Dr Lucilla Ah Ching Sefo from the Eye Clinic at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital on 66575. The clinic is by appointment only. Patients must be screened by the surgical team or private general practitioners.

Australian High Commissioner, Stephen Henningham said this is the second visit a specialist eye surgery team has made to Samoa this year.

“An Australian ophthalmology team visited Samoa in March. During their visit, they conducted over 100 consultations and performed 64

operations,” Dr Henningham said.

”For many of the patients, the surgery restored their sight and changed their lives.”

“The Australian Government funds medical teams to come to Samoa so that Samoans have access to specialist medical treatment, and to

provide training to local medical staff.”

Surgeon Dr Nitin Verma praised the staff at the hospital during a visit he made last year.

“I have seen eye-care nurse practitioners in many countries and have found that those in Apia are perhaps the best,” Dr Verma said.

‘Many of the patients coming in for treatment had advanced diseases and some of them were completely blind from cataracts and pterygia.

One of the patients was a local general practitioner. Because of his vision problems, he was having difficulty in carrying out minor surgery. He

had been referred to New Zealand for surgery. We were pleased to be able to carry out his treatment in-country, saving him time and money.”

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