Accra, It has been estimated that approximately 1.7 per cent of Ghana’s population have severe visual impairment, a recent study by the Operation Eyesight Universal has revealed.
It said although globally there were an estimated 36 million people and a further 217 million others suffering from moderate or severe visual impairment, most of the cases that occurred in Africa were preventable.
In an attempt to address the challenges associated with the provision of quality eye care services, the Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited, in collaboration with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the University of Cape Coast, launched a capacity building programme for Ophthalmic Nurses in Accra on Tuesday.
Mrs Asiedu Addae, the Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing at the Standard Chartered Bank, said the programme aimed at developing the capacity of those groups of professionals by reviewing the curricula of the Ophthalmic Nursing School to run a Master of Science Programme with the help of the University of Cape Coast.
She explained that the course was usually an additional programme undertaken by registered nurses over a one to two-year period, but due to the absence of a Master’s certification in Ghana the attrition rate had been high.
She, therefore, expressed the hope that the initiative would help resolve the problem.
The objective, among other things, was to train polyvalent ophthalmic nurse practitioners who would fit in both curative and preventive care within the community and also teach the course at the enhanced level.
Mrs Addae said Ghana was one of the three countries in Anglophone Africa currently benefiting from the project, which would be piloted over the next three years before being rolled out at other places.
She said ophthalmic nurses had been the backbone of eye health services in Africa since the mid-20th century and remained the largest single cadre of Allied Ophthalmic personnel in Anglophone Africa currently estimated at between 3,500 and 4,000.
In Ghana they number about 580, of which about 90 per cent worked in the government sector, leaving only 10 per cent to take care of the huge cases in the rural areas, where the workload was usually dense.
She assured the public that there would be, at least, two ophthalmic nurses in each district of all the 10 regions, saying the Bank had already made several investment drives with a focus on education and health, especially at the community and grassroots levels.
She said under its; Seeing is Believing, which was a global initiative, funds raised were invested in eye health projects that ranged from providing comprehensive eye care in low and middle-income communities to building innovative eye health delivery solutions.
Mrs Addae said visual impairment contributed to many dropping out of school and left unemployed in the job market as well as diminishing an individual’s quality of life and negatively impacting economic growth.
She expressed the hope that with the initiative, Ghana would be able to provide quality eye services that would meet the global initiative of eliminating avoidable blindness.
Dr Boateng Wiafe, the Director of Advocacy and Quality Assurance for Operation Eye Sight Universal, said the country had a long way to go in terms of providing access to quality eye care services and called for the strengthening of the profession in Africa to address the challenge.
Dr James Addy, the Head of Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), lauded the initiative and said it would help make the profession attractive.
He, however, urged the nurses to remain committed to their duties by accepting postings back to the communities where their services were most needed.
He pledged the support of the GHS to the promotion of higher professional standards in ophthalmic nursing.
Source: Ghana News Agency