Service sets sights on protecting eye health

Right, Khayelitsha East substructure director, James Kruger, and Mikkelsen Pape Dysted, Programme Manager of World Diabetes Foundation, watches as Nathan Congdon, Director of Research at Orbis International, cuts the ribbon.

The Khayelitsha community has welcomed a new service offering diabetic retinopathy eye screening for people who are living with diabetes.

The service was launched at Thusong Centre, in Khayelitsha, on Tuesday, but will be available at four facilities, Khayelitsha Day Hospital, Michael Mapongwana Day Hospital, Nolungile Clinic and Mfuleni Clinic.

Speaking during the ribbon cutting at the Michael Mapongwana Day Hospital, Khayelitsha East substructure director, James Kruger, said the Department of Health and Wellness wants to increase access to clinic-based and patient-centred diabetic eye screening services. He said diabetes is increasing at a significant rate nationally and needs to be dealt with. He said the launch also had the two-fold purpose of identifying diabetics who are at higher risk of developing sight complications.

“Diabetic eye screening, an essential part of diabetes care, checks for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to sight loss if not detected early and treated. Many of our chronic diseases patients are in danger if they are not in control of their diabetes. They tend to end up with other debilitating diseases, one of them is diabetic retinopathy. What we should be doing is improving our prevention of diabetes so that we do not have retinopathy but we are human, so people default on their medication.

“This is a fantastic intervention because it will help the patient, give them a better life outcome and improve lifestyle or life care. Diabetes is one of the biggest problems in our country, other than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and hypertension,” he said.

He said the new service is provided at four facilities because it is closer to Khayelitsha. He said diabetes and hypertension is a problem because most people do not exercise and eat unhealthy food.

The initiative is the result of working together with the Department of Health and Wellness, Orbis International, The World Diabetes Foundation and the University of Cape Town.

Nathan Congdon, Director of Research at Orbis International, said they have brought the programme to the community so that thousands of people are screened.

“The goal is that all people with diabetes are identified. We are screening 20 people a day and I am excited. The project is coming to bear fruit and achieve results. This is one of the most exciting projects I am involved in. It will achieve great results in the future,” he said.

Another excited individual was Khanyisa Jacobs, the facility manager at Mapongwana. She said her facility was happy and they had started screening 30 people a day. She said the project was helpful to the community because they would not have to walk long distances.

Dr Deon Minnies, Director of University of Cape Town Community Eye Health, commended the initiative.

“It provides services to people who start to lose their vision because of diabetes. Another benefit is that Khayelitsha can treat their eyes before they lose their sight,” he said.

He warned that lost eyesight is not reversible. He advised people to check their eyes before they lose sight.

After the ribbon cutting in Michael Mapongwana, celebrations continued at the Thusong centre with dance and traditional groups entertaining the attendees.

The launch of diabetic retinopathy eye screening service attracted dignitaries from all sectors.
Ithemba Cultural Group provided entertaiment to the hordes of people who came to celebrate the launch of diabetic retinopathy eye screening service in Khayelitsha.