Visual impairment from diabetic retinopathy is a common occurrence in Barbados and has now become a national responsibility.
This assertion came from Health Minister John Boyce today as he addressed a workshop on Screening For Diabetic Retinopathy, hosted by Corneal Services Barbados at the Accra Beach Resort.
The two-day meeting brought together professionals in the field of ophthalmology to share ideas, and explore new procedures and advances in technology.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 worldwide. It occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina and is common among people with diabetes.
The Health Minister stated that a National Committee on Eye Care was established in 2012 to develop a strategy document to improve eye care services in Barbados.
The plan, he explained, was to eliminate avoidable blindness and visual impairment in Barbados, and to provide rehabilitation opportunities to those living with blindness and low vision.
Mr. Boyce said a draft Eye Care Policy and Strategic Plan had been developed but continued collaboration and partnership with public and private stakeholders would be necessary to ensure its implementation.
He added: “The Ministry of Health pledges to play its part in the implementation of the plan by establishing strategic partnerships with non-governmental organisations and other key stakeholders to address eye care issues.”
The Health Minister stressed Government’s commitment to ensuring that eye care remained incorporated into the public healthcare system so that every Barbadian had free access to care.
“The Government is cognisant that blindness affects a person’s independence, productivity and education. We recognise that not all persons can afford to pay for eye care services, and that some persons affected by blindness and low vision, are not in a position to work,” he stated.
He shared that on a weekly basis surgeries were performed in the eye theatre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, including cataract, vitreoretinal, ophthalmic, glaucoma and paediatric ophthalmology.
Mr. Boyce cautioned the ophthalmologists that though Barbados might possess some of “the brightest minds” in the field, they must maintain current knowledge in the specialist area.
“The dynamic nature of health care makes continuing education and training imperative for workers in order to continue to provide the best healthcare possible. The need to stay ahead of the curve on new tools and techniques is indeed a must in the healthcare field,” he emphasised.