NZ funds multi-million dollar eye clinic in Solomons
A new state of the art eye care centre is to be built in Honiara with the assistance of the New Zealand aid programme.
A new regional eye care centre to be built for the Fred Hollows Foundation in Solomon Islands will mean the Pacific can do 30% more eye operations each year.
The US$3.2 million facility is being funded by the New Zealand government and mostly built in this country.
The executive director of the Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, Andrew Bell, told Don Wiseman the clinic at the National Referral Hospital is the culmination of more than 20 years of work.
ANDREW BELL: This is a story that starts really with Fred over 21 years ago, when he had a dream of eliminating avoidable blindness, and this is the sharp end dream becoming a reality.
DON WISEMAN: There is already of course a regional centre in Fiji, isn't there?
AB: Yes, indeed. And that is our main training centre and it is to this day a great success. The ophthalmologists and nurses that will be working in the regional eye centre are graduates of Pacific Eye Institute. They've gone back to their country of origin and they are working in very sub-standard facilities and so our government has seen the value in giving them the infrastructure so they're able to do the work they are trained to do.
DW: Let's just talk about the centre - it's going to, I think, increase the number of operations within a year by 400 percent?
AB: That's right. The ophthalmologists and nurses at the moment work out of a small room at the side of the emergency outpatient department and just have to take opportunities when they can to use the general theatre for surgery. And of course emergencies will always take precedence over eye care. So they are going to get dedicated facilities where not only are they going to have the ability to operate four days a week, but they're also going to be able to up the quality and the level and intensity of the work they can do. So the patients that present with more difficult cases will also be able to get the attention that they deserve.
DW: And these will be Solomon Islands patients. When we talk about a regional centre that's more to do with training?
AB: Yes. So Solomon Islanders will be the great beneficiaries of the centre. But we also have a lot of work to be done in Bougainville for example, so it's possible that patients will transfer to the centre or more likely that staff will go on outreach to some of the more remote areas up into PNG to help out with the huge patient load that still exists in PNG, but also allow students in their fourth year from Pacific Eye Institute to be able to really get up to speed. They need to have practice. Ophthalmology is best taught by the doctors having practice. So to bring them into a high volume centre like in Honiara and enable them to work under the tutelage of the great ophthalmologists that we have working there will have a huge benefit for the whole of the Pacific region.
DW: This nearly four million dollars coming from the New Zealand government, that's the total cost of it, is it?
AB: That's correct, yes.
DW: And it will be built by a New Zealand company mostly from materials from New Zealand?
AB: Yes. Just to give great credit to Timber Construction Solutions that has been working for years to really perfect the way they can build in the Pacific. So as you can appreciate, we are trying to build a medical facility, so standards are all important. Being able to deliver a New Zealand standard theatre complex in Honiara is no easy task. And so what TCS is able to do is they are able to cut the timbers here in New Zealand, they are able to treat them in New Zealand, and that means that New Zealand is dealing with all the chemical waste rather than have it in the Pacific. And then they're able to flat-pack it, ship it across to Honiara and there they construct it. So we are able to guarantee the quality of the build will be the same quality as New Zealand. It's going to have earthquake rating that is of a superior standard, its longevity is guaranteed, so it's really smart technology out of New Zealand that we are exporting as well.
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