Free cataract lenses promised by Health Minister not available

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The National Eye Hospital Branch Union of the GMOA yesterday said that although Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne had pledged to provide free lenses for cataract surgeries there was a severe shortage of them at the hospital.

While commending the Health Minister for his move to provide lenses to patients with cataracts, they however said there were only 69 of them in stock. Those had been provided by the Ministry. The Hospital Administration had informed the surgeons that even the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) did not have any available in its stores.

The shortage had resulted in a drop in cataract surgeries, they complained. Earlier approximately 80 to 100 surgeries were performed daily while the number had dropped to 23.

The Branch Union also urged him to verify the truthfulness behind the alleged lenses fraud which had been reported. They said the Minister should take legal action against those who spread such rumours against eye doctors and staff of the hospital.

The Branch Union said that in addition to those woes they were also faced with the possibility of a 70 per cent decline in the number of cataract surgeries that could be performed at the hospital due to lack of a piece of equipment (Phacho Machine) which had been provided to the Hospital free of charge by a private institution. However the machine had been removed from the hospital by the organisation which had resulted in a dilemma for surgeons as they would not be able to perform as many surgeries even if lenses were made available due to the lack of the machine.

Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Secretary Dr Naveen D. Zoysa said there were issues in procuring free lenses for cataract patients. The union had been briefed by the Specialist Eyes Surgeons during discussions held yesterday morning on the issues which had cropped up following Health Minister, Dr Rajitha Senaratne’s decision to provide free lenses for patients undergoing cataract surgery.

Although the GMOA sees it as a positive step by the Health Minister it had led several issues when performing eye operations in government hospitals. He said that the union had been briefed by eye surgeons in countrywide government hospitals as well as its branch union at the National Eye Hospital on those issues.

The GMOA Secretary said several decisions had been taken during the meeting and it intended to inform the Ministerial authorities regarding them.

Dr Zoysa said that one of those decisions had been to provide the comprehensive report on the steps which needed to be taken to provide the patients in government hospitals with a well organised continuous service. Steps should also be taken to analyse the circulars which had been issued regarding the provision of lenses in government hospitals while arrangements should be made to utilise available resources to provide a service for the present.

He said patients and the hospital administrations should be made aware of the issues that had cropped up. "We cannot allow the patients to be inconvenienced due to the haphazard and short sighted decisions taken by the Health Ministry," Dr Zoysa said.



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