By Edwin Fidelis – EM TV, Lae
Papua New Guinea now has an eye theatre, which will provide much needed eye health services in the country.
The Fred Hollows Foundation in partnership with the Divine Word University and Modilon General Hospital commissioned the theatre last Thursday in Madang.
The eye is a complex and delicate mechanism, and its care is essential and while it is a new era for Papua New Guinea’s medical sector, there are more challenges ahead.
The focus now is to help those who can’t afford eye treatment overseas and on how this service can be made available to the bulk of the population in rural areas.
“Our strategic aims is to change government policies, health systems, and resourcing decisions to increase access to eye health, mostly for the marginalised people in rural areas”, said Fr. Yan Czuba, president of Divine Word University.
The Fred Hollow’s Foundation, the initiator of the eye care program, operates in Madang and works closely with the Divine Word University and the Modilon General Hospital to provide training to eye health professionals.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is a lean and independent, non-profit, secular organisation that was started by Fred and Gabi Hollows and friends the year before Fred Hollows died.
The Foundation has worked in over 40 countries around the world and with indigenous communities in remote parts of Australia, and continues to be inspired by Fred’s lifelong endeavour to end avoidable blindness and improve indigenous health.
The organisation is now looking into the future it says. They are now looking at bringing these services to the bulk of the population in rural areas where most of the people have only heard of it but never had the chance to use it.
The idea of the Fred Hollows Foundation began after Fred returned from a trip to Eritea, officially the State of Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa.
According the Fred Hollows Foundation website, Fred, in 1987 came back from his first visit to Eritea “all fired up and got stuck into helping arrange support for the Eritreans”. In 1988 Dr Sanduk Ruit and Gabi organised an Australian support group called the Nepal Eye Program Australia, and fundraising had been going well.
In early 1989 Fred was diagnosed with cancer.
Fred continued working and fundraising and receiving treatment, visiting Eritrea again and Nepal many times, taking the family with him whenever he could. But four years after he was diagnosed, Fred and Gabi Hollows decided they needed to find a way to continue his work.
“Fred and I started this Foundation around our dinner table in 1992 with a group of friends and supporters,” says Gabi. “By that stage we knew he didn’t have much longer to live; cancer was making it more and more difficult to do the sight saving work he loved. Fred died less than one year later. It was a terribly sad time, but brightened by the knowledge that through The Fred Hollows Foundation his work would carry on.”