Published: Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Golden Jubilee consultants help perform hundreds of cataract operations for charity




Two consultant ophthalmologists from the Golden Jubilee National Hospital have recently returned from helping to perform hundreds of life-changing cataract operations with the charity ‘Fighting Blindness’ in Ethiopia (FBIE). 


Doctors Lennox Webb, Lead Consultant for ophthalmology, and Kanna Ramesh were part of a team of 11 Scottish surgeons and nurses who carried out the charity work in Northern Ethiopia.


The charity aims to tackle the widespread issue of eye diseases and cataracts which impacts up to 85% of Ethiopia’s rural population, who would otherwise have very little chance of having their condition treated. This includes carrying out operations for cataracts and eye related diseases, training and developing of local practitioners, supplying eye medicine and providing the necessary equipment to improve the health and sanitation of the rural population and allow blind farmers in Ethiopia to be self dependent.


Due to a lack of local transport, cost and the distance involved, the opportunity to be seen by the team resulted in some patients making a four day journey to be treated, with individuals coming from as far afield asSudan.


Discussing the trip, Dr.  Webb said: “Conditions were far from ideal, and we had to actually clean out an area and convert it into a suitable operating theatre”. 


“One of the biggest issues we came up against was the variable electricity supply. A steady flow of electricity is essential for carrying out these procedures; we eventually had to connect our microscopes to a car battery as this was the only way to maintain a constant supply.”  


This wasn’t the only challenge faced by the team. Upon attempting to enter the country, and despite all necessary paperwork being filled in, customs did not allow their newest piece of equipment - a state-of-the-art microscope  across the border.  


Dr Webb commented: “This meant from day one we were relying on our backup equipment. As a result, the microscope we were using could only be used by bandaging a bright torch to it, meaning virtually all cases with this microscope were carried out safely by torchlight.”


Against all odds, over the course of five days, the team successfully examined over 500 people, performing life-changing cataract surgery on 251 patients. 


Dr Webb added: “We had a fantastic team and had a great deal of fun in an extremely challenging environment; the Ethiopian team on the ground were a pleasure to work with.


“We have had excellent support from the staff and patients at the Golden Jubilee and as a result we were able to make a huge difference to the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet.”


It was recently announced that the Golden Jubilee National Hospital will be expanding its Ophthalmology services, making it one of the largest providers of cataract surgery in Scotland; providing at least 12% of cataract operations in Scotland with the aspiration of having a dedicated Ophthalmology Unit in the future. 

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