The Health October 2020 - Page 8

World Sight Day 2020 Malaysia hopes to create greater awareness among Malaysians on caring for their eyes

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The Health | October , 2020

| Cover Story |

Blinded by apathy

World Sight Day 2020 Malaysia hopes to create greater awareness among Malaysians on caring for their eyes

BY KHIRTINI K KUMARAN
World Sight Day ( WSD ), a day of awareness coordinated by International Agency of Prevention of Blindness ( IAPB ), is aimed at raising awareness about blindness , visually impaired population as well as preventing blindness .
It is held annually on the second Thursday of October and this year takes place on Oct 8 with the theme , Hope in Sight .
President of the Sarawak Eye Society and Organizing Chairperson of Malaysia ’ s WSD 2020 , Dr Wendy See , said : “ This year ’ s celebration is special because we are going virtual for the first time ."
“ We first found out we will be hosting WSD 2020 last year and a grand physical event was planned , which included charity run , public speaking programs , as well as eye screenings . However , due to the pandemic , we transformed it onto the virtual platform , in support of the nation ’ s social distancing efforts .”
A Zoom virtual teleconference event is on Oct 8 , 2020 .
“ We are inviting all 42 ophthalmology departments throughout the nation to join the zoom teleconference event and take the pledge together in support of eye health . This is the first time we can do this , and we are quite excited .”
Meanwhile , the Charity Run , planned pre-pandemic , was also transformed into a virtual event . The 10km virtual Charity Run was held from Aug 31 till Sept 30 .
Dr Wendy and her team were overwhelmed by the warm response and participation to the virtual run event .
“ We thought that nobody would join because of the Movement Control Order ( MCO ). But we had about 500 participants running in their residential areas , parks
or on their treadmills . I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them ,” said Dr Wendy , who is also an ophthalmologist practising at the Sarawak General Hospital , Kuching .
Hoping to reach and educate the public on eye care and eye health , World Sight Day Committee is launching six educational videos on WSD on their YouTube channel . “ Currently , we have the English and Bahasa Malaysia versions . But we are in the process of making the Mandarin , Tamil and Iban versions .”
“ We have also produced a short film titled ‘ Hope in Sight ’, which is the theme for WSD 2020 . It will showcase the socialeconomic impact on a blind young lady , how bilateral blindness has affected her life , her family and her work life .”
The short film also showcases and highlights how this Covid-19 has affected the ophthalmology service and how they overcome it .
“ So ‘ Hope in Sight ’ is like hoping that medical advancement can help us find back some loss of vision .”
In Malaysia , the leading and most common causes of preventable blindness is uncorrected refractive error and cataract .”
Malaysians must be more aware
“ In Malaysia , the leading and most common causes of preventable blindness is uncorrected refractive error and cataract .”
Other causes are glaucoma , pathological myopia , diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema as well as age-related macular degeneration .
Due to the lack of awareness and low eye health literacy , many are unaware that blindness , due to the diseases mentioned before , are mostly preventable and some curable .
“ Like for uncorrected refractive error , all they need is a pair of glasses . Meanwhile , for cataract , it ’ s just a simple surgery .
“ What we are advocating through WSD is to raise public awareness and to encourage them to get their eyes screened and examined , even when they do not have any symptoms .
“ If you do have symptoms , visual impairments or even blindness , do not lose hope . Please do come for eye screening and examinations , so that we can help you ,” Dr Wendy explained .
According to Dr Wendy , prevention is always better than treatment , and education is vital .
“ We at the Sarawak Eye Hospital are honoured and privileged to host this event .
“ We hope by going virtual , we can reach out to more people to spread awareness and educate them on eye care and eye health .” — The Health

Addressing the shortage of ophthalmology and optometry professionals

There is a shortage of ophthalmologists and optometrists in the country , especially in Sarawak .
Dr Wendy See , an ophthalmologist at Sarawak General Hospital and the organising chairperson for Malaysia ’ s World Sight Day 2020 , said : “ It ’ s quite bad in Sarawak . Our ratio of patient to a specialist in Sarawak General Hospital is about one to 400 or 500 ,” she shared .
It was incredibly challenging during the peak of the Movement Control Order ( MCO ).
Dr Wendy shared : “ Our department doctors and staff were deployed to help with the crisis , and this affected our services . We had to postpone and reschedule non-elective clinic appointments as well as the elective cataract surgeries for about three months .”
She also noted patients were reluctant to visit hospitals during the MCO as the hospital had Covid-19 in-patients .
“ Most of these people waited at home with severe symptoms and eye trauma . After the Recovery MCO ( RMCO ) was implemented , they came to us . We are handling so much of blindness that could have been prevented .
“ Apart from that , now we have an overwhelming number of patients , who had their appointments postponed during the MCO and including those who have their appointments now .
“ We are still managing our clinical appointment backlogs . Fortunately , we have managed to clear off all our cataract surgery backlogs .”
Commenting on the shortage of eye specialists , she said : “ We need more , but this is not a one-day solution . There ’ s a lot of effort by top management to address this shortage of eye specialists .”
In the effort to increase the number of specialists in the field , Dr Wendy emphasised the quality should not be compromised .
“ We need to make sure that eye specialists are competent medically and surgically . The journey to becoming an ophthalmologist is not comfortable , it requires lots of learning and training .
“ It ’ s difficult but can be achieved , and over the past few years , we can see the intake of students into the government ’ s Master eye specialist programme has increased .”
She highlighted the optometry service also suffers from a shortage of optometrist professionals as well as optometry equipment .
“ Especially in Sarawak . In a day , we usually have about at least 200 patients who require eye and visual examinations . We also need our optometrist to follow us with the mobile cataract services and outreach services for the rural community .
“ Currently , we only have eight optometrists and two eye screening machines , the Humphrey Field Analyser ( HFA ) and optical coherence tomography ( OCT ), which are not enough ,” she said .