A NEW eye centre is set to open in Honiara on 22 July, providing free eye care to all Solomon Islanders.
A collaboration between the governments of Solomon Islands and New Zealand, with eye care charity The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, the centre will have a significant impact on avoidable blindness in the country.
Lead Ophthalmologist at the centre Dr Claude Posala emphasises that its services are for everyone, no matter what their age or background.
“We’re thrilled to offer everyone free access to eye checks, and where required, surgery and treatments for a range of eye conditions. No matter what your age or background, we’re here to help anyone who is having trouble with their eyesight”, says Dr Posala.
Four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be; their condition is preventable or treatable.
The new centre will help more Solomon Islanders who are needlessly blind, doubling the number of sight-restoring surgeries able to be performed in its first year.
“This new centre will have a profound effect for us in terms of capacity building. We are going to be screening more patients and performing more eye surgeries, meaning that greater numbers of people are going to be able to see again than ever before.
“Our patients will go on to lead more independent, productive lives, and that’s hugely satisfying,” Dr Posala notes.
As well as serving Solomon Islanders, the centre will function as a regional centre where eye care professionals can come to gain further specialist expertise.
Staff will also be available to conduct outreach clinics in neighbouring Pacific countries requiring eye care support.
The Foundation’s Executive Director Andrew Bell explains that Solomon Islands is a recognised leader in Pacific eye care and as such, is paving the way with training and new techniques.
“Already 21 eye nurses and four eye doctors from Solomon Islands have graduated from our Pacific Eye Institute, showing great commitment to building the country’s eye health systems.
“Now, they have a world-class facility in which to share their specialist skills with visiting professionals, spreading valuable knowledge across the Pacific region,” Mr Bell says.
The centre was designed and constructed to have a lasting impact.
The New Zealand Government provided over SBD$22million, with additional funding from the World Diabetes Foundation and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.
“Solomon Islanders should not accept anything less than high quality, sustainable approaches to development.
“The centre’s design and construction reflects that, and in fact, is now the most advanced eye centre in the Pacific. It’s already been adopted as a blueprint for other centres such as the one in Madang, Papua New Guinea,” Mr Bell added.
The centre was designed by award-winning New Zealand architect Pete Bossley and built by New Zealand company TCS.
It contains rooms for eye surgery, diabetic retinopathy treatments, minor procedures, sterilisation and classroom training.
Some of the centre’s impressive features relate to its self-sufficiency – 94% of the building’s power derives from solar energy.
Other aspects enhance its durability –for instance, the New Zealand pine used in construction means it’s expected to have a 50 year lifespan.
In addition, the centre meets approved earthquake resistance standards, natural disaster and fire safety guidelines, and the strict standards required of medical facilities.
Run by the Ministry of Health, the centre forms part of the National Referral Hospital. It is open to the public from 27 July 2015.
Patients are welcome to walk in for eye tests and treatments between Monday-Friday.