By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
CATARACT surgery will be provided to some 60 patients at the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama for the first time by an all Bahamian ophthalmology team of specialty physicians and nurses this week.
Leading the marathon surgery is Dr Dawn Russell-Hermans, director of ophthalmology at the Princess Margaret Hospital, who is working along with the ophthalmology team at RMH/Grand Bahama Health Services (GBHS) in Freeport.
So far, the team has completed some 16 cases at the hospital since Monday. The team consists of six physicians in total who will be working three at a time. Another three physicians are due to arrive later this week.
Hospital Administrator Sharon Williams said they launched the Public Hospitals Authority and GBHS Marathon Cataract Intervention Programme 2019 on Monday to provide much needed relief for patients on their waiting list.
Ms Williams noted the last cataract marathon surgery was held in 2015 at RMH, through the support of the Chinese government.
“This time we are proud to say it is (being performed) by our local team and services at RMH and GBHS, under the direction of our national ophthalmology surgeon and her team from PMH,” she said.
The GBHS provided screening for surgeries for over 60 patients with cataract problems last week.
She noted ophthalmology is one area officials in Grand Bahama have been experiencing challenges in terms of staffing and providing specialty surgery.
Ms Williams stated that through their partnership with PMH, they will be able to provide “significant relief for all patients on our waiting list”.
“We are restoring sight and assisting with the physical health and wellness and emotional health and wellness of our patients. We at GBHS have recently recruited an ophthalmology surgeon and also engaged in training, along with the national programme at the PMH Ophthalmology programme, for additional nurses.
“With the additional staffing at GBHS, we will be able to provide ongoing heath care in terms of ophthalmology services for persons not only in GB, but the surrounding cays,” she said.
Dawn Russell-Hermanns - who has been travelling to GB for the last two years providing specialty care for retinal patients with diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure - said they have already completed 16 cases at this stage.
“I think it is history in terms of a Bahamian ophthalmology team coming together providing services in this way,” she said.
“I think really one of the key point for me is looking at the patients and seeing their satisfaction and gratification in having this done. I am very impressed with surgical team here assisting us with the turnover of patents and getting them ready,” she said.
During clinic visits, Dr Hermanns said that they became aware of the significant amount of patients requiring cataract surgery who were not on a list, resulting in a backlog of cases.
“And so, we are providing services this week trying to get as much cases done as possible. I am very pleased that we were able to get together as a team; it is a good initiative and it should not stop here,” she said.
Dr Freeman Lockhart, medical chief of staff, is excited about the whole idea of marathon cataract surgery in Grand Bahama, recalling a similar exercise happening a few years ago with the assistance of Chinese government.
“There is nothing like seeing a local team of Bahamian specialists providing this kind of service, he said. It shows the extent of medical training and specialty available in the Bahamas, and to see our own local Bahamians involved and organising it, and pulling it off, it should make everybody real proud,” he said.
He noted similar initiatives should be organised in other areas of specialty in Grand Bahama.
“There is a need for it given our geographic set up...because we cannot put a specialty centre in every island - it is impossible. Ophthalmology is being a trailblazer, but there is no reason to think we can’t do a similar initiative in some of the other sub-specialty areas. That is the challenge I put to myself as an orthopaedic surgeon and to other specialty areas,” Dr Lockhart said.
In terms of cost, according to Ms Williams some of the surgeries will be delivered free with respect to persons in certain categories, such as old age pensioners. Other persons within certain age categories will have to pay for the cost based on the services they are getting, but Ms Williams noted that it still is extremely reasonable.
In November 2015, some 120 people in the northern Bahamas received free cataract surgery through the 2nd Bright Journey Project- an eye surgery programme that was initiated through a collaborative effort between The Bahamas and the People’s Republic of China.