The Pacific Eye Institute in Suva, Fiji, sent a team of eye doctors and nurses to Vanuatu on the first regional Pacific outreach since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The Pacific Eye Institute, established by The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in 2006, offers eye care training for doctors and nurses from the Pacific region and a full range of eye care services. The Institute also sends outreach teams throughout the Pacific to provide eye care services where they are most needed.
Since the pandemic began in 2020 and prevented a lot of travel, the Institute has been unable to send their Outreach Teams throughout the Pacific, resulting in backlogs of people needing eye care in the region, including in Vanuatu.
The Institute worked closely with the Vanuatu Ministry of Health to make this outreach happen and ensure that many patients were seen throughout the week. The Institute’s team worked with local Vanuatu eye doctor, Dr Johnson Kasso, who was also trained at the Pacific Eye Institute, and together they saw over 150 patients, with over 85 people receiving operations.
One of the patients seen during the outreach was 39-year-old Sam. Sam had been bilaterally blind for a year which meant he wasn't able to work and provide for his family. For three months before the outreach, all he could see was white and he couldn't recognise the faces of his three children. The visiting eye doctors were able to perform two separate operations Sam eyes, greatly improving his vision.
Dr John Szetu, Medical Director for The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, was at the outreach and says, “With COVID-19 restrictions in place throughout both 2020 and 2021, a large number of planned outreaches had to be cancelled, resulting in patients waiting for eye care services throughout the Pacific. To be on a regional Pacific outreach for the first time in two years is just so exciting for the team, who have all been impatient to start travelling again and treating patients on outreach.”