Ophthalmologists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have detected an increase in glaucoma cases among younger Barbadians.
“We have a significant concern about glaucoma in Barbados at all ages, and recently we have been picking up more cases in children and young adults,” consultant oculoplastic surgeon at the QEH Dr Kim Jebodhsingh said. “We do not have any statistics, but while glaucoma patients traditionally tended to be much older (in their 60s and up), we can now detect cases earlier and we are seeing a lot more patients in their 30s and 40s now.”
The doctor was speaking on the sidelines of a three-day conference on ophthalmology at the Accra Beach Hotel, which featured specialists in that field from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, who presented the latest findings in the field of pediatric ophthalmology.
Dr Jebodhsingh lamented the fact that not enough research had been done in her field in the Caribbean region, and said a few years ago, she started the Caribbean Ophthalmology Research Foundation to encourage her contemporaries in the field to do so.
Referring to glaucoma specifically, she said: “Our glaucoma experience here is slightly different in terms of causes and how the disease progresses compared to North America. For example, a Caucasian in the US may have a different experience from a black person in the Caribbean. There are several different factors such as genetic make-up and diet, among others, that would affect the course of the illness and we must do our own research so we can better deal with these conditions here.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss challenged the island’s ophthalmologists to establish Barbados as the Caribbean centre of excellence for eye care.
In his address, he noted that Barbados has one of the highest number of ophthalmologists per 1,000 in the western world, and he encouraged them to take the necessary measures to promote their services abroad, as that would also contribute to the development of Barbados’ health tourism product.
According to Inniss, the political will must first exist for this goal to be achieved. He added that there must also be a public/private partnership for the development and growth of ophthalmology services here, with greater use being made of facilities at the state-run QEH by allowing private investors and investment in the plant and equipment at the facility.
“Why should the state continuously struggle with trying to find money to make such investment when private enterprise can do such?” he asked.
Inniss also called for facilities at the QEH to be opened up to healthcare providers other than those currently employed there,” he said.
“One of the worst things we can continue to do in this region is to have physicians control our healthcare institutions. Often times we develop a culture that can be akin to that of the mafia, whereby turfs are established and controlled by an old boys network that then deprives the institutions of the best skills and technology, as well as denying others an opportunity to hone their skills and earn a decent living along the way.
“Why can’t an ophthalmology suite at the QEH be available for all ophthalmologists to utilize, rather than each one of you having to make investments in your own plant and equipment?”
The Minister also encouraged the University of the West Indies to set its sights on becoming the premier teaching and research centre for ophthalmology care in the region.
“I am deeply concerned over the continuing focus on producing a large number of MBBS graduates with not enough focus on postgraduate training and building centres of excellence in a few areas. We cannot do everything for everyone, so let us pick a few areas and become experts in them,” he stated.