The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ opened a new diabetes eye clinic in Suva, Fiji last week. The purpose built clinic will provide vital screening and laser treatment for people with diabetes-related eye disease.
Research undertaken by The Fred Hollows Foundation in 2009 revealed that more than 40 per cent of adults aged 40 years and over in Fiji have diabetes, and The Foundation’s existing diabetes eye clinic at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva has been inundated with patients in need of laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy.
Last year alone, there were 6,348 patient visits to the clinic – up from just over 4,500 in 2010.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where blood vessels in the retina are damaged as a complication of diabetes, causing vision loss and even blindness. Early detection and prompt laser treatment reduces the risk of permanent vision loss by 50 per cent, and it is vital that patients are screened and treated as soon as possible.
The new clinic is located at the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva, a training centre for Pacific eye health workers established by The Foundation in 2006, and the lead agency working to end avoidable blindness across the Pacific.
“There is a huge need for diabetes eye care services in and around Suva, and the existing clinic is simply too small to meet the demand,” says Andrew Bell, Executive Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. “The new clinic has three times the capacity of the old clinic, with four consultation and screening rooms and two rooms for laser treatment. This means our team will be able to screen and treat higher volumes of patients.”
Since late 2009, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ has stepped up its efforts to address diabetes related eye disease in Fiji and the new clinic is just part of a multi-pronged approach. To ensure people with diabetic retinopathy receive timely treatment, The Foundation has established an extensive outreach program to nine locations across the Central Division of Fiji. Patients are screened for diabetes eye disease and then referred to the clinic in Suva for laser treatment.
In 2011, a total of 1,323 patients were screened by Fred Hollows Foundation staff at outreach centres – 40 per cent were found to have diabetic retinopathy.
The Foundation is also meeting the demand for services by training Pacific eye health workers.
“It is vital that we train Pacific eye health workers in diabetes eye care and it is now a core part of the courses we provide at the Pacific Eye Institute,” says Mr Bell. “Pacific-wide incidence rates for diabetes are amongst the highest in the world and the need for diabetes eye care services will continue to grow.
Souce: Press Release - Fred Hollows Foundation