21 Jun 2012

New diabetes eye clinic to open in Fiji

3:21 pm on 21 June 2012

The head of New Zealand's Fred Hollows Foundation says a new diabetes eye clinic opening in Suva has the potential of saving the sight of up to 30 people a day.

Andrew Bell says the new clinic will provide a hub for screening and laser treatment of diabetes-related eye disease, known as retinopathy.

He says many people have no idea they have diabetes until their eyesight starts to deteriorate and they are diagnosed with the condition which is a late symptom.

He says it's estimated up to 50 percent of the population has diabetic retinopathy and public education is vital as people's sight can be saved.

Mr Bell says local leaders can play a crucial role in advocating for better eye services and encouraging people to seek treatment.

"You need to find out about what services are available through your local MInistry of Health, your local hospital or clinic and then encourage the people to go along. One of the experiences that we have in the Pacific is that people believe that going blind is part of the aging process and don't realise that there actually is a remedy."

Andrew Bell says the service is free to patients and is supported by the Fred Hollows Foundation, Fiji's Ministry of Health and New Zealand and Australian aid programmes.