I feel privileged to be with you here today, and I welcome you all, to the 13th Annual Virtual Symposium of the Ophthalmological Society of Jamaica. Since our last face to face meeting in 2019, the current executive has built on the strong foundation set by our past members and today we have an exciting program awaiting you.
Through partnerships with the Ministry of Health & Wellness, ORBIS International, the Vision 2020 LINKS program, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, as well as new collaborations, we have made todays’ vision come to life. At times we thought it would not be possible, due to the widespread impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the population and Health care services in worldwide.
These are challenging times for the us Ophthalmologists and Eye Care professionals, and now, more than ever, this virtual forum has become more of a necessity than a luxury. I must admit that even I have taken for granted previous luxuries such as four-day trips to attend the American Academy of Ophthalmologists meeting, or the ARVO conference. I personally miss the opportunity to go island hopping to the regional OSWI conference every July, as it would take me closer to home, but whilst this past year has been difficult, we have all adapted and I am grateful that we can all meet here today. It is official, the O-S-J, has transitioned into a new era of learning, and we, have gone, “Virtual!!”
Yesterday, we hosted the DRS Virtual Workshop along with our partners and It has been a success. The OSJ and the Ministry of Health are committed to making this International Certification & Quality assurance exercise an annual event, as we continue to see its benefits.
Eye Care services in Jamaica have progressed since 2019. We have increased our numbers with new graduates from the DM Ophthalmology program, and I have noticed an influx of eager Ophthalmology residents in training attending the DM Ophthalmology and Cross- Caribbean Grand rounds, and other International academic events.
In 2019, through the MOHW and the Vision 2020 LINKS Program, The Diabetic retinopathy screening program expanded to include the Western Regional Health Authority with one screener/grader and the introduction of a laser treatment center into the Public facility. The Southern Regional Health Authority was able acquire two additional screener/graders expanding DRS screening program to the parish of Clarendon. Other sites at the South East Regional Health Authority and the University Hospital of the West Indies continue to do Diabetic Retinopathy Screening. Screening at all sites in based on National Guidelines set by the DRS Technical Working group . The DRS program continues to provide quality screening and an avenue for treatment of our sight threatening Retinopathy, in an effort to reduce vision impairment.
Diagnostic imaging such as OCT,OCT - Angiography, for Glaucoma and retinal pathologies have also become more accessible to the population. Surgical procedures such as SLT, Micropulse and YAG-laser, Corneal Cross linkage, LASIK Vision Correction, Anti VEG-F injections, Vitreo-retinal procedures are now more accessible to the population all over Jamaica. Now rural parishes are able to provide better Eye services to their region.
This is in line with recommendations from the WHO world report on Vision (2019), to reduce the burden of eye disease vision impairment by improving eye services provided to the population.
We continue to see preventable blindness from a variety of causes such as ocular trauma, Cataracts, and undiagnosed refractive errors. As part of an assessment tool for eye care services in Jamaica, The Ministry of Health & Wellness established a National Technical Working Group and the OSJ forms part of the TWG. There are 6 Sub-committees’ and the mandate is to establish guidelines for
Screening for Visual Impairment among Children,
Rapid Assessment of Avoidable blindness,
Revision of the Optometrist Act,
Retinopathy of Prematurity and
Whilst a lot of work has been done behind the scenes, we admit that there is still much more to be done. There has seen a reduction in our all clinics and surgical services island wide. This has been and due to COVID-19 Protocols, curfew restrictions, as well as Social Distancing measures which must be implemented. Despite all this, we have had to learn to practice Ophthalmology in a safe manner.
In April 2020, the OSJ executive circulated Guidelines and recommendations for Ophthalmologists and Eye Care professionals during the Covid-19 Pandemic. We must remember that as eye Care professionals we in the “High Risk category ” for contracting Covid-19. I implore you to stay safe , get vaccinated and therefore protect yourselves.
I invite you to enjoy this Virtual Symposium and thank you helping make this conference a success.
Dr Jeannine Nelson – Imoru