In Papua New Guinea, there is a shortage of refractive error services and a limited number of trained eye care personnel to supply a population of nearly seven million. With that said, the Brien Holden Vision Institute Public Health Division has helped to facilitate some positive changes by implementing the following program focus areas; the National Spectacles Supply system program and vision centre development.
PNG Eye Care is a local, non-government organisation established in February 2008, with the assistance of the Institute as a capacity building initiative. PNG Eye Care has a head office in Port Moresby and employs 10 local staff working across all locations.The Institute provides ongoing support to PNG Eye Care in their aim of addressing avoidable blindness and vision impairment, access to eye care services and affordable spectacles in urban, rural and remote areas.
The President of PNG Eye Care is Dr Jambi Garap, the first woman ophthalmologist in PNG. Dr Garap's lifelong comittment to improving eye health outcomes for the people of PNG has greatly assisted the development of sustainable eye care systems within PNG through her tireless advocacy within the government and health sector. She was an integral part of the process that helped to form the National Prevention of Blindness Committee (PBL). This is the peak advocacy body for eye care in PNG which was originated through the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) hosting a workshop in 2012, facilitated by PNG Eye Care, to bring all stakeholders in eye care together as one cohesive group.
"I have always believed in team work. There are so few of us in PNG that we all need to work together. It has been an honour to be part of a team that is achieving so much for ophthalmology and eye care in PNG," said Dr Jambi Garap.
"Team work is important to achieve national goals. I believe all stakeholders should work together and compliment each other, not competing with each other. We all have the same goal at heart. Often you know what the problem is and often you know what the solution is. Then its about making yourself available to help wherever you can and being proactive about it," she said.
With the support of the Institute, PNG Eye Care established a National Spectacle Supply Program, providing spectacles to seventeen sites across PNG. The eye nurses at each site are now able to provide a comprehensive treatment service to their communities as a result of this program.
Together with the Institute, PNG Eye Care established four Vision Centres that are fully equipped and locally staffed. Since the official opening of the first vision centre in Port Moresby in 2008, PNG Eye Care has since opened three more centres, operating in Buka, Mendi and Rabaul. Through AusAID's Avoidable Blindness Initiative, the accessibility of eye care services across the country has been dramatically increased. These centres provide a range of eye care services that include eye examinations, refraction, prescribing spectacles, supply and dispensing of low cost spectacles, detection of potentially blinding diseases, and appropriate referral of patients with more complex eye conditions to tertiary health care services.
Local partnership is crucial to all programs. The partnerships in the National Spectacles Supply and vision centre development programs, both involve government and non-government organisations and thus create opportunities for more sustainable, long term service delivery and provision of eye care services. The National Department of Health supports PNG Eye Care and the roll-out strategy within public hospitals.
Sustainability of the program is achieved through capacity building and training of local people, ensuring an appropriate working environment and generating an affordable spectacle supply system. The project has employed local personnel, trained and upskilled staff for all vision centres which has in turn provided permanent facilities where people can access regular refractive services and spectacles.
In a country rugged as PNG, the terrain often makes travel difficult to the vision centres, we run outreach eye clinics as ongoing activities facilitated from each vision centre which helps to improve access for the more remote communities. The National Spectacle Supply System is an area of focus for the program going forward and supported by key stakeholders in the eye care community.
In February 2011, the National Prevention of Blindness Committee PNG (PBL) was established and the Institute and PNG Eye Care, became members of the committee. The Institute provides ongoing support for the development and implementation of the National Eye Plan by advocating and assisting in national activities such as the Medical Symposium. The symposium, an important event for the PBL Committee, is a national annual meeting in which scientific papers and resolutions are presented to the National Department of Health for further discussion and implementation.
PNG Eye Care, Centre of Eye Research Australia (CERA), Callan Services, Department of Health (DOH), Mendi General Hospital, Buka General Hospital, Fred Hollwos Foundation, Nonga Memorial Hospital, Port Moresby General Hospital, Mt Hagen General Hospital and other public hopistals and community health centres.
We acknowledge Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly AusAID) contributions through the Avoidable Blindness Initiative from 2009-2012.
Population: 6,431,902 (July 2014 est.)
Area: 462,840 sq km
Geography: Oceania, group of islands including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea between Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia
Industries: Copra crushing, palm oil processing, plywood production, wood chip production; mining (gold, silver and copper); crude oil production, petroleum refining; construction and tourism
Communication: Services are minimal; facilities provide radiotelephone and telegraph, coastal radio, aeronautical radio, and international radio and communication services is not widely available although combined fixed-line and mobile cellular teledensity has increased to roughly 35 per 100 persons
Transport: Approximately one third of the roads are paved, 3000km out of 9349km
*Based on information from www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook