Number one cause of curable or treatable blindness is cataract – Expert

Director of the Save the Nations’ Sight Clinic, Dr Baah has said the number one cause of curable or treatable blindness is cataract.

Cataract blindness, he explained, can be reversed with a simple straight forward surgical procedure.

However, he said, there are thousands who, are needlessly blind from it in Ghana.

“Many of these patients have valid National Health Insurance. One would wonder why these patients are not getting the needed operation to restore their vision.

“The reasons are many and varied. One of the many reasons is perhaps, because doctors are not sufficiently financially motivated to operate on the less privileged patients. A little analysis will buttress my claim,” he said at a ceremony  for the presentation of a cheque to the Clinic by the Ghana Association of  Former International Civil Servants (GAFICS) on 9TH August.

Below is his full statement…

DR BAAH’S SPEECH AT THE GHANA ASSOCIATION OF FORMER INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SERVANTS (GAFICS) CEREMONY 9TH AUGUST 2022

Mr. Chairman, Professor Mahama Duwiejuah

The President of GAFICS, Mr. Kwaku Osei Bonsu

Professor and Dr Mrs  Adadevor

The Head Eye Unit, GHS, Dr James Addy

The Paramount Chief and member of the Council of State, the Tumu Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton VI

Members of GAFICS gathered here

Rev. Fr Anthony Didongo

Journalists, Staff of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic,

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my singular honour to welcome you all to this ceremony.

Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic was established twelve years ago. It has since played a leading role in the fight against needless cataract blindness especially among the rural and urban poor.  The outreach team screens patients in deprived communities and refers patients identified with operable eye conditions to the clinic for operation. In 2021, the clinic performed a total of 1122 eye operations of which 875 were cataract operations.

The number one cause of curable or treatable blindness is cataract. Cataract blindness can be reversed with a simple straight forward surgical procedure. However, there are thousands who, are needlessly blind from it in Ghana. Many of these patients have valid National Health Insurance. One would wonder why these patients are not getting the needed operation to restore their vision? The reasons are many and varied. One of the many reasons is perhaps, because doctors are not sufficiently financially motivated to operate on the less privileged patients. A little analysis will buttress my claim.

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In 2007 and 2008, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) paid 101.4 Ghana Cedis for cataract surgery. One Ghana Cedi then was equivalent to a Dollar. The tariff for cataract surgery in 2007 and in 2008 was about a $100. At present the NHIA pays about 350 Cedis for cataract surgery which we all know cannot buy $50 in the open market. The truth must be told. Since the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) fifteen years ago, the cost of cataract surgery (in US Dollars) has steadily declined to less than half its original figure.  No wonder that many private eye clinics do not accept the National Health Insurance for cataract surgery. Those who do find other ways to balance the equation.

I am not here to begrudge the government and or the NHIA for not paying realistic tariffs for cataract surgery. I understand and appreciate the deplorable economic predicament in which we find ourselves as a nation. The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine are responsible for the financial crisis in many parts of the world. I will like to make a passionate appeal to the authorities that when better times come and the economy is booming, the government and the NHIA will not forget to raise the tariff for cataract surgery.

The Ghana Association of Former International Civil Servants (GAFICS) seem to have recognized the challenges that patients face with regard to accessing cataract surgery. They have come to lend support to Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic in its fight against needless cataract blindness in Ghana. They have come here to present a cheque to the clinic to pay for cataract surgery for thirty patients with blinding cataract. Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic is most grateful to GAFICS for their generous support.

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It is my sincere prayer and hope that others will emulate the example of GAFICS and lend support to facilities that are dedicated to the fight against needless cataract blindness in our nation. Together, we can end the scourge of needless cataract blindness in Ghana.

Prof. Chairman,

My speech will be incomplete if I fail to mention the role that the Latter Day Saints played in the growth of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic. The LDS Charities have been doing marvellous works of charity across Ghana and in the sub-region. I am not here to blow their horns for them. I find it irresistible, however, not to tell you about what they have done for us. If Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic is able to see further than others, it is because we stood on the shoulders of the LDS Charities. They supported us with equipment from the very beginning of the establishment of this clinic. Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic is forever grateful to the LDS Charities.

Professor Chairman, please allow me to pay a little homage to a retired Senior Lecturer of the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST and a former Head of Department of Surgery, KATH, Kumasi. He is a distinguished Obstetrician/Gynaecologist. I was privileged to do my rotation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology under him. Professor Adadevor was present at the time that a graduate of a school under trees was admitted into medical school under circumstances that one would consider as unusual if not strange. If I may recall,

I missed the medical school interview for several weeks. Someone in my village was found my name in the Daily Graphic. It was among a list of names of students who had been invited to a medical school interview. The date of the interview had passed. Even so, I decided to come to the medical school to find out if they would still consider me for admission or not. At the STC station in Bolgatanga, I met Alhaji Hamidu Sulemana for the first time. He was then a student at KNUST. The university was on vacation. He asked me to see our chairman, before going to the medical school.  I came to Kumasi and went to see Mahama Duwiejuah, then a Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Pharmacy. I found him at Katanga Hall.

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It was my first time of meeting him. I told him my predicament. Without any hesitation, he walked with me to the medical school. The list of students they had interviewed and offered admission to study medicine was pasted on the notice board. The secretary to the school said that nothing could be done for me. I was standing in front of the notice board when Mahama Duwiejuah left for another office. Before long, he came out with a tall Welsh gentleman. I did not know who he was then. He asked me a series of questions. When he finished, he removed the piece of paper containing the list of students who had been offered admission into medical school and with a pen, he added my name to it. The rest of the names were type written.  He signed his signature by my name and put the Dean’s stamp also by it sealing my admission into medical school as though divinely occasioned. My admission into medical school was subsequently approved by the academic board of the school of which Professor Adadevor was a member.

Professor Adadevor, you represent the board that gave me the singular honour to study medicine 41 years ago. I will like to say a big THANK YOU to you and to all the members of the medical school board then.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, AKPE.

With this I end my speech.

Long live the struggle against needless cataract blindness

Long live GAFICS

Long live Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic

Long live Ghana

THANK YOU

Source: 3news.com|Ghana