Hundreds of residents of central Jamaica have benefited from free cataract surgeries, which were performed at the Mandeville Regional Hospital in Manchester between October 22 and 24.
A total of 486 procedures were done by a team of doctors from the United States (US) as part of the sixth Cataract Camp Mission to Jamaica, which is organised by Florida-based diaspora group Mind Body and Soul Health Ministry.
The mission, held annually since 2014, was put on hold over the last two years due to the global pandemic.
Speaking at the closing ceremony held at the Mandeville Hospital on Monday (October 24), State Minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Hon. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, said that eye health and care is among the priorities of the Ministry, and partnerships such as the one with Mind Body and Soul are deeply appreciated.
She said that the burden of cataract often increases as the incidence of hypertension and diabetes rises, noting that these conditions are prevalent among the Jamaican populace.
“With our ageing population, there will be an increase in age-related visual impairment, but there are effective interventions of which surgeries like these can restore vision,” she noted.
The State Minister said that cataract, which is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye, is one of the most common eye conditions that leads to blindness in the Caribbean.
She noted that worldwide, some 94 million people of all ages are impacted by cataracts.
She said that in 2019, the Ministry supported a Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Programme by purchasing 810 intra-ocular lenses and 210 cataract packs to facilitate up to 1,200 surgeries conducted at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston.
“The Ministry has also renewed the agreement with Cuba for the operation of an ophthalmology centre here, which has, over the years, facilitated greater access to quality, timely vision and eye health services for Jamaicans,” Mrs. Cuthbert-Flynn said.
“Another strategy is the increase of comprehensive eye screening as an integral part of the renewal of primary healthcare across the island,” she added, noting that “very soon, newborns, children and adults will have access to eye care in relation to their specific needs”.
Co-founder of Mind Body and Soul Health Ministry, Hillary Morgan, informed that the cataract mission to Jamaica began when she discovered that her aunt living in the island could not see well.
She approached Dr. Kiran Patel for assistance [through his foundation], and he introduced her to Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Loma Linda University, Dr. Nitin Shah, who is the founding president and board member of the Anekant Center in California.
They have been involved in the missions to Jamaica since 2014.
Mrs. Morgan noted that for this trip, additional eye specialists were brought into the island.
In addition to the surgeries, eye screenings were held at Manchester High School and Villa Road Primary School in Manchester, and Abuthnott Gallimore High School in St. Ann.
“I thank all the nurses and everyone, who have played their part to make this successful. We will continue to push for future years – we will come back,” Mrs. Morgan pledged.
She said that one of the goals of the mission is to touch every parish in Jamaica.