Vaiola Hospital Eye Department has a new piece of sight-saving equipment thanks to a grant from the Australian High Commission Direct Aid Program in Tonga. The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ has been providing eye care services in Tonga since 2002 through outreach services, and more recently, through supporting nine Foundation-trained eye nurses and one doctor at Vaiola Hospital Eye Department.
Co-funded by The Foundation, the equipment is a Geuder Vitron 2020 Pneumatic Vitrectomy Unit (“Vitron 2020”) - an ophthalmological tool recommended by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).
The equipment is used to conduct micro-surgery to treat serious eye injuries or diseases, such as damaged blood vessels, wrinkles in the retina or holes in the macular. The equipment can also be used before or after cataract surgery.
Before receiving the AU $4,990 grant from the Australian High Commission to purchase the equipment, visiting surgical teams were required to bring a Vitron 2020 Unit with them. This significantly increased the cost and logistical risk of any surgical visits, as surgery would be cancelled if equipment did not arrive on time.
Now, the Eye Department has a unit of their very own on stand-by in the operating theatre. It will go a long way to ensure comprehensive, sustainable and high quality eye care services are available to the people of Tonga.
The Eye Department is under the management of Dr. Duke Mataka, who graduated as an eye doctor from the The Foundation’s training programme at the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji at the end of 2018. He has now returned to Tonga as the country's only eye doctor.
Dr. Duke noted in a thank you letter to the Australian High Commission, “This equipment will enable us to handle complicated cataract surgeries such as traumatic ones, and also deliver paediatric cataract surgeries locally in Tonga without having to send these children for treatments abroad.”