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Taking a good look at the National Eye Centre

The recent case involving some patients of the National Eye Centre Kaduna who were unable to see for about two weeks but later regained their sights came as a big challenge to the centre which mandate is to provide preventive, curative and rehabilitative eye care services to people.

The centre is a federal government owned eye hospital commissioned to start full operations in December 1992 as part of government’s response to increasing incidences of eye health issues among Nigerians.

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While the hospital has carried out this function over the years, it had to contend with some challenges like the one that happened recently.

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The management of the centre has assured that it is not resting on its oars to ensure that achieves its mandate and has gone ahead to take adequate measures for effective service delivery.

The Chief Medical Director, Dr Mahmoud Alhassan, said the centre, in line with its core values,  has over the years succeeded in putting in place a formidable team of professionals in relevant fields of endeavour, “to reduce blindness in Nigeria through the provision of qualitative, comprehensive and cost-effective eye care services, education, training, research and policy advocacy”.

In the past five years, the centre has attended to an average of 39,261 patients per year.

The CMD said this was made possible by the various managements and staff of the centre with the support of various governments while the current management has been making effort to ensure the story continues on the upward side. He said the last management started sub-specialty departments by training or supporting ophthalmologists on treatment of ailments like cataract and glaucoma.

He said part of the challenges have been the non availability of needed operational equipment which makes it difficult for Nigerians to benefit maximally from these trainings.

With the recent past, the present management apart from retraining some of those formerly trained to update them on the global best practices in their fields for optimal outcome for their patients, also trained new ones as back up for the sub-specialties already on ground.

The CMD said to give teeth to these trainings, the management through capital projects, acquired some additional equipment to enable the sub-specialists practice and by extension make Nigerians benefit from their services, adding that the centre now undertakes vitreo-retinal surgery which had been a serious problem for average Nigerian patients with retinal detachment and other diseases of the retina who could not afford the exorbitant prices of the one or two private and overseas hospitals offering such services.

“This became possible with the recent acquisition of consumables for the vitrectomy machine and training of relevant staff on the use of the machine. Patients with retinal diseases are now referred to the Centre from various parts of the Nation,” he said.The centre has been able to successfully carry out its first successful cornea transplant with the recent purchase of more equipment.

But it still faces challenges such as the complexity of acquiring and preserving donor tissues but the CMD said the management is working hard to overcome  it so that Nigerians who need cornea transplant can easily access the service in the centre.

In the oculoplasty unit, the requirements for the centre to start its own manufacturing of artificial eyes is more than eighty percent on ground, saying this will remove the hassles of procuring from outside sources and prolonged waiting on the part of patients who need it for cosmetic purpose.

Paediatric ophthalmology services in the centre have also improved with the procurement of A and B scanners as well as eye care tonometer for measuring intra-ocular pressure for mainly paediatric patients, hand-held pachymeter and keratorefractometer, amongst others.

Some of the patients said they were referred to the centre from other facilities across the country as far as Bauchi and other states. One said she came from Kano for treatment after initial consultations at a another centre there, noting that it was not her first time, as she had been going there since she was referred from where she was being treated in Kano. A high number of patients seek medical attention at the centre on a daily basis, and the hospital management said it is working hard to see that patients are attended to promptly.

One of the senior management staff said there have been progressive renovation of the hospital complex while an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) has been put in place.

The Optical Unit has a new blocking machine while the Optometry Unit now effectively offers low vision services to patients with the procurement of low vision devices.

The CMD said there have also been increase in community based service delivery through outreaches, school eye health visit and work place services.

Community outreaches he said, are carried out in different local government areas in Kaduna State with an adopted outreach centre for subsidised cataract surgery at the General hospital, Turunku managed by the National Eye Centre Community Eye Care (NECCEP), also a brainchild of the management, adding that the centre is a training institution for ophthalmology in Nigeria.

Haruna writes from Kaduna

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