The Honiara-based Regional Eye Centre launches Wednesday morning in a special ceremony presided over by the Honourable Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
The Centre will provide free eye care to all Solomon Islanders and act as a regional training hub for visiting eye care professionals.
The Centre represents a partnership between the governments of Solomon Islands and New Zealand, with eye care charity The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. It was designed by award-winning New Zealand architectural firm Bossley Architects and built by New Zealand company Timber Construction Solutions International and local contractors.
Lead Ophthalmologist at the Centre, Dr Claude Posala, says he is thrilled to see the facility come to life after extensive consultation and planning.
“The Centre’s design and construction is incredibly high quality. Ninety-four percent of the Centre’s power comes from solar energy, and the building materials are so good that it will last 50 years. I’m proud to say that we have the most advanced eye care facility in the Pacific.”
Dr Posala highlights that the Centre will have a significant impact in addressing avoidable blindness in the country.
“In Solomon Islands, as in the wider Pacific region, four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be – their condition is preventable or treatable. If you or your family members are having eye problems, you don’t need to wait. Come to the Centre and get your eyes checked for free by our friendly team.”
Executive Director at The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, Andrew Bell, notes that 21 Solomon Island eye nurses and four eye doctors have graduated from The Foundation’s Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji.
“The Solomon Island government have shown great commitment to building the country’s eye health systems. Their graduates are amongst the best and brightest in the Pacific, and now they have a facility befitting of their specialist skills.”
As well as serving Solomon Islanders, the Centre will function as a regional hub 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 Regional Eye Centre will double the number of sight-saving surgeries able to be performed in Solomon Islands in its first year alone. The New Zealand Government invested over SBD $22million in the facility, with additional funding from the World Diabetes Foundation, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
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. For more information, phone the eye clinic on 23600, Ext 243.