Even before the pandemic hit us, it’s common knowledge that the South African public healthcare system was buckling under the pressure of a large population with limited resources to service it. Despite the symptoms appearing at a far more gradual pace than other healthcare issues such as TB or cancer, vision and eye care health should still be considered among the top public healthcare concerns.
SIOC-Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT), that supports beneficiary communities within the Northern Cape and Limpopo provinces, has recently commenced the roll out of their comprehensive eye care project. This roll-out has already seen 244 cataract surgeries take place and the issuance of 411 spectacles since March 2021. The project encompasses eye care testing and the treatment that patients require to prevent or rectify vision impairment. This intervention addresses specialised human resources capacity to reach more people in rural areas. The first tour successfully concluded at the end of March as follows:
ZF Ngcawu District Municipality, Northern Cape (between 19th and 28th March):
· 160 cataract surgeries performed to date
· 395 spectacles issued
Waterberg District Municipality, Limpopo (between 26th and 29th March):
· 84 cataract surgeries performed to date
· 16 spectacles issued
· The next surgeries are scheduled for September 2021
Says Vusani Malie, CEO of SIOC-CDT: “The project was supposed to launch in April last year and end in March 2021, but due to the health and safety delays during the pandemic last year, we delayed the first tour until March 2021. We have exceeded our goals and are delighted at the progress made to date. We wish to thank all of the partners that have worked with us on this vital eyecare project. Thousands of South Africans are needlessly blind merely because they cannot afford treatment or do not have access to adequate services, which is why support from corporations and civil society is so essential in assisting to bridge this gap”.
SIOC-CDT is funding the project, which is divided into quarterly tours, by an amount just shy of R1 million for the cataract’s surgery, screening, awareness and reading glasses. In partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Health (NCDoH) and the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), the project initially aimed to provide a total of 160 cataract surgeries and 200 pairs of reading glasses for patients in need within SIOC-CDT beneficiary communities – this goal has been surpassed.
Each tour follows a stringent itinerary in order to achieve the following goals:
1.To raise awareness against blindness via education (causes and prevention, genetic retinal conditions, etc.).
2.To provide vision screening, testing and treatment for minor ailments (identifying cataracts, issuing reading glasses, escalating complicated eye conditions to the next level of care, etc.).
3.Providing cataract surgeries to patients in need (the operations are scheduled/performed in one of the NCDoH hospitals by a qualified Ophthalmologist from member organisations through Private Partnerships as part of the existing Cataract Outreach Programme).