The Primary Eye Care Programme is the point of the patient’s first contact with BCVI. In our effort to prevent needless blindness we conduct clinics countrywide on a regular basis. Our public awareness programme uses all forms of the media to urge people to have regular eye examinations and preserve their sight. There is no charge for an eye examination at these clinics that are held in the district towns & villages throughout the country. With no appointment necessary, people have easy access to quality eye care.
Our Regional Field Officers (RFOs) are vital to BCVI’s success in delivering eye care in the areas of the country where they live & work. They are our link to the community, as they organize clinics & assess patients. The RFOs are trained to deal with patients needing simple treatment such as reading glasses or treatment for pink eye. For those needing further refraction, medical or surgical intervention, the RFO makes a referral to the optometrist or ophthalmologist. Optometrists work along with our Field Officers and provide care at the base clinics that are held at least two times a week, and also at two outreach clinics for the month in each district.
We have five RFOs who are based in: Belize City, Belize District; Belmopan, Cayo District; Dangriga, Stann Creek District; Orange Walk Town, Orange Walk District; and Punta Gorda, Toledo District. In addition, regular clinics are held in Corozal Town, Corozal District, as well as Benque Viejo del Carmen and San Ignacio in the Cayo District.
At the primary level in 2008:
- A total of 926 eye clinics were held.
- A total of 10,283 persons were examined:
- 2,316 were children.
- 7,967 were adults.
- A total of 3,319 prescription glasses were dispensed.
As well as providing examinations free of cost at this level, the treatment & glasses that are prescribed are available at an affordable cost so that no one goes without the care they need.
There is an ongoing effort to improve the care and at any given time we have at least three optometrists on staff that work along side our Field Officers. We have benefited from individual volunteers who give from three to six months’ service, and from visiting groups that conduct clinics in the most remote rural settings. With the return of three local students from their studies in Cuba, we hope to establish more continuity in our care. The optometrists also assist in the training of the RFOs to enable them to identify eye problems and deal with them appropriately.
Our base clinics are all centrally located in the district towns and we are in the process of making them more comfortable & efficient. We have gradually been able to equip all the clinics with the basic examination equipment. Routine tests to detect cataracts, glaucoma & diabetic retinopathy are performed, in addition to refractions. We offer a wide selection of quality frames to choose from when patients are prescribed glasses. The prescription glasses are generated at our Eye Glass Lab in Belize City and through a coordinated system they are easily distributed at the district level, thereby saving the patient a costly journey to the city.
In further efforts to get the word out on the importance of early eye exams in preserving sight BCVI takes part in many community activities. These include community health fairs and conducting clinics with local church groups & business houses. When working in the villages, we liaise with the government health clinics, village councils, teachers & community health nurses to arrange clinics for the people in their area.
BCVI is committed to expanding its effort to eradicate needless blindness and will continue to work with all partners to improve its Primary Eye Care Programme.