Dominicans wanting eye treatment began queuing early this morning, Thursday, at Goodwill parish hall for the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) program to open its doors at 10.00am. Today is the last of the VOSH clinics in Dominica for this year, and by nine o’clock some 200 persons were estimated to be outside.
“It’s been a long wait, but it will be worth it,” said one 60-year-old man, who, after queuing for three hours, was waiting to collect his new glasses. “It’s a great help for Dominicans, especially for older people with eye problems. You get an eye examination and, if you need it, a pair of glasses for EC$25.
Yesterday local ophthalmologist, Dr Hazel Shilingford-Ricketts, said that VOSH was making a great contribution to preserving eye care in Dominica.
VOSH is an international organization of volunteer optometrists and health care workers whose purpose is to preserve eyesight and correct visual impairment, by providing free eye care, creating sustainable eye clinics, holding short term missions and supporting new schools of optometry in developing countries.
Dr. Ricketts was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, to commemorate the 20th mission of VOSH to work Dominica.
“In collaborating with VOSH, a number of objectives have been met for the eye program in Dominica. You may have heard me speak over and over again, about vision 20/20 and this is a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to eliminate preventable causes of blindness by the year 2020,” she said.
Dr. Ricketts mentioned five different eye problems that we, in the Caribbean have to address: Cataract, which is the leading cause of blindness, Glaucoma, Diabetic’s Retinopathy, childhood blindness and refractive errors, “and VOSH has contributed in helping Dominica to address these problems of blindness in Dominica,” she said.
“For one, they refer patients with the eye diseases and also, by providing glasses to patients who cannot afford to buy their glasses and have contributed in improving the vision of these patients and so, VOSH is an integral part of our vision 20/20 program. In addition to the mission, they also donate valuable equipment to the eye clinic…eye drops especially eye drops which is not readily available in Dominica or which are expensive,” she pointed out.
Riketts said these eye drops are given to patients at the hospital free of charge and there are times when they take their equipment back to the USA for repairs, “So we have benefitted tremendously in the eye program in Dominica.”
Meantime President of the Rotary Club of Dominica, Robert Tonge, said that the team has been on island for four days now and their last clinic will be at the Goodwill parish hall today, Thursday.
“In the four days we are planning to see 1800 to 2000 people and I mean that is a value of over 1.2 million dollars, and it says a lot.”
Tonge said further that the VOSH team has donated over $40,000 worth of eye drops.
“And that has been going on for the last 20 years, and you can really see the true value that we bring to the people of Dominica, and all of this is also possible through the assistance of the government of Dominica who provide duty free concessions, waivers of departure taxes and the provision of transportation to the various clinics”.