Eye care centre for Cape Coast Teaching Hospital

BY: Shirley Asiedu-Addo
Ehunabobrim Pra Agyensiam planting a tree after cutting the sod for the commencement of the eye care centre
Ehunabobrim Pra Agyensiam planting a tree after cutting the sod for the commencement of the eye care centre

Ghana has about 100 ophthalmologists serving its over 30 million people. This means there is one ophthalmologist to about 300,000 people.

As of mid-2021, the country had 1,525 eye health professionals, representing a 1:20,196 ratio according to the population at the time.

To improve equity and access gaps in eye care services, the sod was cut for the construction of a one-million-dollar eye, surgical and training centre for the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) last Tuesday.

The facility, which is being sponsored by the Hamalayan Cataract Project (HCP), is being undertaken with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ASHA Foundation and will increase access to eye care services for the Central and Western regions.

It is being constructed under the National Cataract Outreach Programme and the Himalayan Cataract Project and aims at bridging the equity and access gaps in cataract surgeries and to generally provide efficient eye care services with special packages for the vulnerable.

The centre, a product of a four-year collaboration between CCTH and HCP, which is expected to be completed in 18 months, will also serve as a training ground for eye care professionals.

It is the second of such projects after the first one constructed at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in 2014.

Good vision crucial

In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said eye health or good vision for every individual was important to the socio-economic development of the country, as it impacted education, employment, poverty and most importantly the quality of life.

He said in Ghana, 1.2 million people had visual impairment and required the attention of health service providers.

Of the number, he said blind people accounted for 20 per cent while people with low vision accounted for 80 per cent.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said 55 per cent of the causes of blindness were untreated cataract, 19.4 per cent glaucoma, while posterior segment diseases, including diabetic retinopathy and corneal-related causes also accounted for the rest.

He said it was worrying that about half of the people suffering from cataracts were unaware that it could be treated by surgery and 95 per cent of people with refractive error who needed to wear spectacles did not use them.

He noted that Ghana had made tremendous strides to improve activities relating to blindness and vision impairment after signing on to the global declaration of Vision 2020 in October 2000.

The Head of the Eye Unit of the CCTH, Dr Benedicta Thompson, said the collaboration between CCTH and the HCP, which began in 2019 had led to 4,731 cataract surgeries to restore people’s sight.

However, she said close to 35,000 people had been screened for cataract and would be operated upon. He called for support from well-meaning Ghanaians and corporate Ghana in sustaining the project.

The Country Representative for HCP, Dr James Addy, said HCP would continue to collaborate to ensure improved eye health for as many Ghanaians as possible.

Quality health care

The Central Regional Minister, Justina Marigold Assan, commended the hospital for its efficiency and quality healthcare services and pledged the regional coordinating council’s support to the successful completion of the project.

The Chairman of the CCTH Board, Ehunabobrim Pra Agyensiam, who chaired the function, urged those who could afford the cataract surgeries to pay to help sustain the project.