The Sunday News
FIVE percent of eye cataract patients in Zimbabwe are children, although this is an adult disease that is rarely found in children. This has seen a number of children suffering from the effects of the disease at a tender age.
The United Bulawayo Hospitals is set to open a new Paediatric Eye Unit at its complex in a bid to have complete attention drawn to the eye-care needs of children.
The chief executive officer for the hospital, Mrs Nonhlanhla Ndlovu, told the Sunday News that work was almost done at the unit.
“We are at 90 percent so far with the construction and we are set to complete construction by September, next month when we will open to the public,” she said.
The eye unit is being constructed at a cost of $1,3 million with the help of Christian Blind Mission from Germany, Council for the Blind (Zimbabwe) and the Lions Club of Germany.
“We secured $1,3 million from a German organisation through a fundraising event that was done there and donors came through. We had an international skier that came to Zimbabwe and he did a documentary at the hospital and we told him our challenges and he used that to source funding for us,” she said.
The documentary was done in 2013.
The new hospital unit consists of two theatres, office space and a ward that will house 40 children at any time.
“In addition to the wards we will also have a hostel for parents that will bring their children for treatment as the eye unit will be catering for children from Matabeleland North, South, Midlands and Masvingo. There will be a challenge of accommodation when they come here as some may not have relatives,” said Mrs Ndlovu.
The hospital is also receiving state-of-the-art equipment from Christian Blind Mission.
The hospital previously did not train nurses in eye-care but they have since opened the School of Ophthalmology.
“Our nurses had basic eye-care knowledge but now they will get further training at the new school. We are also offering training to all nurses throughout the country who have interest in eye-care,” she said.
The CEO further said Christian Blind Ministry had offered three nursing staff and one consultant surgeon an opportunity to go and study at the University of Minnesota in the United States of America.
The four will get specialist training in paediatric eye-care and when they return they would share knowledge with others at the eye unit.
The CEO said the reason behind the opening of the paediatric eye unit was to specialise and isolate the treatment of children from that of adults. She further said children were very sensitive, so separating them from the adults would ensure they were safe from other infections.
The CEO said she was grateful that some people in the diaspora had identified their needs and assisted them to fulfill some of their dreams.
“We are happy that we have people who are able to help us in such huge projects which we alone were not able to fulfill. We will forever be grateful to the donors,” she said.
A visiting US-based ophthalmologist Dr Steve Beaty said during a free eye treatment day held at Gwelutshena Rural Health Centre in Nkayi recently that rural nurses here were not trained well in this area.
“Over the years I have noticed that rural health care personnel are not trained well in handling patients with eye issues such that it is difficult for them to properly assist the patient.
“Many times they cannot differentiate between an emergency that needs referral to a bigger hospital and small procedures that they can handle at the rural centre,” she said.
Dr Beaty said there was a need for education and training of rural health nurses as they had to be up to date with the latest trends in the ophthalmology division of health care.