A NEW Zealand high level delegation led by Therese Walsh, Peter Kiely and Gill Greer, advisers to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the new Regional Eye Centre (REC) on Friday.
Walsh, Kiely and Greer are members of the International Development Advisory and Selection Panel (IDASP), an independent group that provides advice to the Minister on the New Zealand Aid Programme’s direction, priorities, and approaches to development.
The came following the opening of the eye centre last month.
The centre was constructed through a collaboration by the New Zealand Government, the Solomon Islands Government, and New Zealand NGO The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
During the visit Dame Therese noted “We are very impressed with the REC which provides Solomon Islands with world leading facilities”.
Globally, 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.
“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. Our patients will go on to lead more independent, productive lives, and that’s hugely satisfying”, said National Referral Hospital Head of Eye Department Dr Claude Posala.
The New Zealand Government provided over SBD $22million (NZD $4.1million) with additional funding from the World Diabetes Foundation and the Queen Diamond Jubilee Trust.
The facility is owned by the Solomon Islands Government. Ongoing operational costs will be borne by The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in cooperation with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ’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,” Bell said.
Designed by award-winning New Zealand architect Pete Bossley and built by New Zealand company Timber Construction Solutions, the REC contains rooms for eye surgery, diabetic retinopathy treatments, minor treatment procedures, sterilisation and classroom training.
Some of the centre’s impressive features relate to its self-sufficiency: 95% of the building’s power comes from solar energy. Other aspects enhance its durability – the New Zealand pine used in construction means it is expected to have a 50 year lifespan. Furthermore, the REC meets approved earthquake resistance standards, natural disaster and fire safety guidelines, and the strict standards required of world class medical facilities.