The main cause of blindness in Fiji is cataract, with only 47.5 percent of Fijians with an operable cataract receiving surgery. The leading cause for low-vision is uncorrected refractive error, which in most cases can be fixed with a pair of glasses.
Pacific Island nations are some of the worst affected by diabetes, accounting for seven of the top ten countries with the highest rate of diabetes. This has led to diabetic eye disease becoming the third most common cause of low-vision in Fiji.
A large proportion of the country’s eye care workforce is based in Suva, making regular outreaches to rural locations a necessity. There's a lack of resources at smaller eye care clinics throughout Fiji, and travel costs — along with difficulty in physically accessing services — are a barrier for many patients.
Fiji has one of the largest populations in the Pacific Islands and requires a robust eye care workforce to cater for eye health needs.
In 2002, there was no eye care training for nurses in Fiji and the only eye care training available for doctors was in Papua New Guinea. To counter this, we built the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva, and have been providing eye care training programmes there since 2006.
The Pacific Eye Institute is a hub for eye care expertise in the Pacific, not only providing training for the eye care sector throughout the Pacific region, but also delivering the full range of eye care services within Suva’s public hospital. The Institute is also a base for the region’s Pacific outreach team — a team of Pacific Island doctors and nurses who travel across the region to provide eye care services to people in need.
In 2015, we launched the Mobile Eye Clinic, a full-service clinic that travels around Fiji’s two main islands. This mobile service has improved access to eye care for Fijians living in remote areas, with screening teams travelling ahead to small villages and referring patients back to the nearby Mobile Eye Clinic for treatment.