Excitement as National Eye Centre begins transplant

For persons with eye-related problems, there is hope as the eye centre in Kaduna commences transplant. Writes BABA YUSUF.

The National Eye Centre in Kaduna, one of the best hospitals for eyes-related ailments, has commenced eye transplant.

Following weeks of praises after 10 patients regain their sights, it was gathered that the transplant process embarked by the present management of the hospital is helping more patients to regain their sights.  

Cornea transplant is an area in which the former managements trained sub-specialists, but was not carried out in the centre due to lack of donor tissues, necessary equipment and consumables including an eye bank. 

But the transplant has begun successfully with the recent purchase of Auto-Kerato-Refracto-Tonometre, Wave front Analyser. This has made the process easier.  

The centre is the federal government-owned eye hospital in Nigeria commissioned in December 1992 as the then government’s response to the increasing incidence of eye health issues among Nigerians sometimes leading to irreversible blindness.

Its mandate is to provide preventive, curative and rehabilitative eye care services to all Nigerians and even patients from the West African sub-region. 

This it had done successfully over the years, but the enhancement of its equipment is changing the story of the hospital for good. 

Blessed with a formidable team of professionals in relevant fields of endeavour, the centre’s vision is to reduce blindness in Nigeria through the provision of qualitative, comprehensive and cost-effective eye care services, education, training, research and policy advocacy.

In line with the above, the centre’s core values are, patients first, result-oriented, integrity, quality care, teamwork, commitment and professionalism.

Centre a training centre – CMD

The chief medical director, Dr Mahmoud Alhassan said that the centre is a training institution for ophthalmology in Nigeria, saying ophthalmologists and other eye health care manpower across the nation have benefitted from the centre’s knowledge in one way or the other by participating in health care manpower development programmes run by the centre.

In the past five years, the hospital has attended to an average of 39,261 patients per year, mainly Nigerians from various walks of life apart from its various community outreach programmes.

This has been made possible by the various managements and staff of the centre with the support of various governments. On continuous health success, Dr Alhassan said they have been making effort to ensure the success story continues.

“Though the last management started sub-specialty departments by training or supporting our ophthalmologists, as the case may be, in various sub-specialties like cataract and glaucoma, cornea, paediatric/strabismus, oculoplasty and vitreo-retina, non-availability of needed operational equipment made it difficult for Nigerians to benefit maximally from these trainings,” he said.

However, in the recent pasts, the present management apart from retraining some of those formerly trained to update them on the global standard best practices in their fields for optimal outcomes, also trained new ones as back-up for the sub-specialties already on ground. 

Some nurses and biomedical engineers/technicians, it was gathered, were also trained in some of the sub-specialties to effectively assist the surgeons.

To give teeth to these training, Blueprint gathered that the management in the past few years, acquired additional equipment to enable the sub-specialists practice and by extension make Nigerians benefit from their services.

Alhassan further revealed that, “The centre now undertakes vitreo-retinal surgery which had been a serious problem for average Nigerian patients with retinal detachment and other diseases of the retina who could not afford the exorbitant prices of the one or two private and overseas hospitals offering such services. This became possible with the recent acquisition of consumables for the vitrectomy machine and training of relevant staff on the use of the machine,” he said.

According to him, patients with retinal diseases are now referred to the centre from various parts of the nation. 

A patient Daniel Agba who had suffered from retinal disease before said, “I was referred to this place from a prominent hospital in Enugu. I didn’t want to come but I was encouraged to come and I’m amazed by what I can see; honestly the machines and staff I met are great. I told my wife yesterday that I never knew Nigeria has this kind of eye services offered here.”

Other types of equipment-enhancing retinal services purchased by the present management include an argon laser used for non-invasive retina photocoagulation; wireless BIO used for indirect fundoscopy and for doing certain types of retinal surgery; DRI-OCT (Triton Plus), a three dimensional optical coherence tomogram used for anterior and posterior segment imaging, tomography of the retina and optic nerve, OCT/Fluorescein Angiography and fundus Photography.

Others include IridexMicropulse Laser Machine for non-invasive retinal photocoagulation, trabeculoplasty, etc. All of these have made the centre a succour for patients with retinal diseases.

Cornea transplant has also been an area former managements trained sub-specialists in, but has not been carried out in the centre due to lack of donor tissues, necessary equipment and consumables including an eye bank. With the recent purchase of Auto-Kerato-Refracto-Tonometre, Wave front Analyser, 

Specular Microscope, Excimerlazer machine and Construction of an eye bank, the centre has been able to successfully carry out its first successful cornea transplant. The complexity of acquiring and preserving donor tissues is though still a challenge but the management, it was gathered, is working hard to overcome it so that Nigerians who need cornea transplant can easily access the service at the centre.

For the Oculoplasty unit, the requirements for the centre to start its own manufacturing of artificial eyes is more than 80 percent on ground. This will remove the hassles of procuring from outside sources and prolonged waiting on the part of patients who need it for cosmetic purposes.

Paediatric Ophthalmology Services in the centre has also improved according to Amina Aliyu, mother of a young patient. “With the procurement of A and B Scanner as well as Eye Care Tonometer for measuring intra-ocular pressure for mainly paediatric patients, handheld pachymeter and keratorefractometer amongst others, hope has being rekindled in us.”

Other additions that have improved eye care services offered to our patients are non-contact tonometer and pachymeter. The Optical Unit has a new blocking machine for surfacing of lenses, grooving machine for mounting of half rimmed frames, drilling machines for drilling holes on lenses for rimless lenses, automatic edger used for edging and fixing lenses all for the benefit of the patients.

The Optometry Unit now effectively offers low vision services to our teeming patients with the procurement of low vision devices. There have been progressive renovation of the hospital complex and to crown it all, this 

management has been able to start electronic medical records (EMR) which is the practice globally.

There have also been increase in community based service delivery via outreaches, school eye health visit and work place services.

Ahmed Gambo a teacher in Turunku maintained that, “Since Dr Alhassan became director, this community now has increased medical attention; honestly, we are grateful to Allah. I am a beneficiary of eye centre outreach and I know most of us in Igabi local government area are happy with the hospital.”

Community outreaches are carried out in different local government areas in Kaduna with an adopted outreach centre for subsidised cataract surgery at General hospital, Turunku managed by the National Eye Centre Community Eye Care (NECCEP) also a brainchild of this management.

A lot of residents and patients are of the opinion that there is improved services in the centre which the management says it is on course in line with its vision, mission and core values. 

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