GPHC acquiring new equipment for screening, testing for diabetic retinopathy

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Minister Public Health, Dr. George Norton has emphasised that the services offered at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) should not be taken for granted, and must be considered a privilege for Guyanese.

Dr. George Norton, Minister of Public Health, giving the feature address at the Diabetes Health fair and exhibition
Dr. George Norton, Minister of Public Health, giving the feature address at the Diabetes Health fair and exhibition

Minister Norton was at the time highlighting the need for diabetic screening and early detection of visual impairment at a health fair and exhibition held on November 25, 2016 at D’urban Park in Georgetown.

GPHC’s eye clinic offers free screening, testing and diagnosis. More specifically, persons who have been diagnosed with diabetes can benefit from free eye surgeries. In other countries, there is a cost attached.

According to a GINA report, the event was the last of its kind for the month of activities hosted by the Public Health Ministry in observance of World Diabetes Day 2016.

“We take things for granted in the small islands in the Caribbean. Every cataract surgery that is done they have to pay EC$400; in Miami to do a phacoemulsification (a technique used to operate on cataracts) with intraocular lens implantation, affordable lens and so on, minimum US$3000,” the Minister explained.

A number of key stakeholders including Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), Guyana Diabetes Association (GDA) and the Lions Club D’urban Park/South Georgetown collaborated throughout the month to host a number of activities under the world theme ‘Eyes on Diabetes’.

This year’s theme for World Diabetes observances brought specific focus on the disease and how it affects the eyes.

Persons attending the health fair visiting various booths to find out more about diabetes
Persons attending the health fair visiting various booths to find out more about diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy has been recognised as one of the more serious states of diabetes in the eyes, and is the leading cause of blindness. Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye.

Minister Norton highlighted the need for early detection. “I refer to diabetic eye disease which includes the more serious or amongst the more serious, diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is said to be the leading cause of blindness for people between the ages of 30 and 64 worldwide. Not so long ago, it used to be said that if you’re a diabetic you will go blind if you live long enough…that is no longer the case.”

The diabetic retinopathy programme at the GPHC which does retinopathy screening and laser treatment for diabetic patients is a component of the Guyana Diabetes Care Project. The programme provides free screening.

“I am pleased to see that the diabetic programme is already well established at the Georgetown Hospital Corporation and that was launched in June of 2016 with the objective to screen 16,000 patients living with diabetes of which 10 percent of that amount will have to undergo treatment for diabetic retinopathy.” Minister Norton declared.

Acquisition of new equipment

The programme is working towards continued screening by making the process for diagnosis easier thereby having patients know their status with relation to diabetes. GPHC’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Celeste Hinds said that the programme for detecting diabetic retinopathy is being improved through the acquisition of new equipment for screening and testing.

Dr. Celeste Hinds, Ophthalmologist, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC)
Dr. Celeste Hinds, Ophthalmologist, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC)

“The World Diabetes Foundation has helped us to procure some very expensive retinal cameras and other ophthalmological instruments which will now help us to fast track the screening process, so instead of having to go through a long eye exam with your ophthalmologist, you can come get an appointment ,you get dilated and then examined,” Dr. Hinds explained.

Diabetic retinopathy is preventable, but there must be early detection and treatment. There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. But laser treatment (photocoagulation) is usually very effective at preventing vision loss if it is done before the retina has been severely damaged.

In ensuring that a person does not develop diabetes, there is an urgent need for a healthy lifestyle to be practiced while managing health through constant visits to the doctor. The contraction of diabetes can be prevented if a person manages his or her  weight, exercise daily, have balanced, healthy diets and check for risks.

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