by Lorraine Anyango
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) has adopted a new response to handling cataracts by conducting community outreach and performing surgeries within the communities.
This community cataract’s response has been arrived at after the realization that many patients shy away from seeking treatment at the hospital due to misinformation about the cost involved.
The back born of this response lay in the fact that cataract continues to be the leading cause of blindness, yet it can be prevented with early diagnosis.
This exercise will see that screening using the Fundus machine will be conducted in the communities and specialists will be available on the ground to undertake surgeries where there will be a need.
On June 15th, 2022 communities living around Nyalenda and its environs will be screened and treated not only for cataracts but also for other eye-related challenges.
“We are targeting clients already on NHIF, this will also help raise the revenue generated to the hospital, some of these people are very old and they have challenges getting to our facility.” Dr. George Rae, Chief Executive Officer JOOTRH said.
Not only with the JOOTRH Eye Unit bring services to the communities, but those that are near JOOTRH will also be ferried to the hospital, surgeries will be conducted, and at least after two days, they will be taken back to the nearest centers in the communities where they hail from.
The community outreach is one of the planned activities under a project dubbed ‘Achieving Integrated Eye Health in Kenya’ a three-year collaboration between Novartis and Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF), and it’s being implemented in Kisumu and Uasin Gishu county.
Available data at JOOTRH indicates that, out of 2,960 people screened in November 2021, December 2021and January 2022, 199 patients had cataracts, and only out of these only 54 underwent surgery.
In February, March, and April 2022 a total of 2,902 were screened, 322 were found with cataracts while 75 of these underwent surgery.
From the data, those who were found to be with cataracts were mainly in the age bracket of 60 to 89 years, among those diagnosed only a single child of 11 years was found to be with a cataract, while only one other was under 30 years.
The decision to do surgeries at the community level and also facilitate transport to JOOTRH for surgeries was also informed by the above data.
Community health assistants (CHAs) and Community health workers are expected to play an important role in referring patients covered under NHIF with cataracts to JOOTRH for surgery.
“Soon we shall equip a vehicle as a mobile theatre, we will have it move from market to market and use the supermarket approach, so we will not only reduce blindness but will also increase revenue generated by the hospital.” Dr. George Rea said.