QEH to eliminate the eye surgery backlog

Health authorities have announced an initiative to address the backlog of eye surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and they hope to show significant progress in three months.

Health and Wellness Minister Ian Gooding-Edghill told a Down to the brass thumbtacks radio show on Starcom Network on Friday that he is on a mission to reduce the number of patients waiting for cataract surgeries and improve care as soon as possible.

The minister promised to monitor the situation over the next three months, assuring the public that if the numbers did not reach the target level, he would turn to the Cubans for additional troops. He said when he arrived at the ministry there were 1,750 patients awaiting cataract surgery, but after meeting with the eye department he was assured the backlog had started to shrink.

“On a monthly basis, I ask for the number of surgeries performed on cataract patients. The information I am going to give you will be as of September 12. We have created 34 public medical practices. These are surgeries that have been performed.

“In July there were 68 completed and in August the number was a bit lower, 34, but there were issues with doctors with COVID so they couldn’t operate. What we have been provided with is that ophthalmologists are prepared to treat at least 95 cases per month,” Gooding-Edghill said. He noted that the ophthalmologists had encountered problems with the equipment, which have almost all been resolved.

“We had to get additional packs. These are packs that are used for cataract surgeries, and we are expected to receive 120 from Trinidad and Tobago and another 300 from a local supplier this week,” he revealed.

Gooding-Edghill also said he has ordered QEH to ensure they have at least 750 packs to ensure there are no delays in surgery due to unavailability of these packages.

“We have also identified additional space at Queen Elizabeth Hospital which can be easily repurposed to allow more surgeries to be carried out,” he told his radio audience. “We are taking steps to put this into operation. But I can tell you that we are committed to reducing the backlog without compromising other eye surgeries,” the minister said.

He revealed that the plan also involves increasing the number of nurses so that cataract procedures can be carried out in the morning and afternoon.

“In the longer term, we will also have to turn to another theater. We are working on it. But our immediate goal is to eliminate the backlog of cataract surgeries, and I assure you that I will monitor progress on a monthly basis,” he stressed.

“There needs to be a high sense of urgency in dealing with cataracts because obviously it can lead to blindness,” he added.

“We will ensure that doctors have the equipment and that they have the necessary resources. But at the same time, we have to measure progress because if we still have a population asking and people complaining that they can’t get surgery, then we have to have a plan B.

“Plan B is therefore an opportunity to ask for help where it is needed and if necessary”, underlined the minister. “What I will do is I will monitor the monthly reports, I will see where we are going over the next three months in terms of the number of surgeries performed.

“Obviously, if you touch the base, everything is a home run as they say in baseball. If that does not happen, I must tell you that I will have to continue discussions with the Cuban ambassador with a view to obviously having additional resources to mobilize to get to Barbados,” he revealed.

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