East Timor will, for the first time in the country’s history, establish an Association for all eye care workers. A constitution for the Association was being drafted by more than 30 eye care workers at the country’s training hospital in Dilli on 19 January.
Michael Knipe, a member of Optometry Giving Sight, which has directed significant funds to East Timor Eye Program since 2007, was at the meeting. “This is history in action,” Mr. Knipe told mivision.
“I’m sitting in on a meeting of 30+ eye care workers in the training centre of the hospital. They are methodically working their way through a draft constitution. The final name of the association is yet to be confirmed but the ‘Ophthalmic Association of Timor Leste’ (AOTL), seems to be the front runner.”
He said the group’s intention to include all eye care workers in the association differs from the models found in most western countries.
This is another important step along the way in making eye care in East Timor self sufficient and sustainable
Mr. Knipe said once the association’s constitution was agreed and office bearers elected, there would be official photographs and speeches by representatives from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand and the East Timor Ministry for Health.
“This is another important step along the way in making eye care in East Timor self sufficient and sustainable. It’s great to see so many people actively engaging in discussion about eye care in East Timor and ways to improve standards and provide advocacy,” said Mr. Knipe.
The East Timor Eye Program (ETEP) commenced in July 2000 as a response to a request from the World Health Organisation. At that stage, no eye care was available anywhere in East Timor and the damaged country was in desperate need to re-establish health services. Optometry Giving Sight began directing significant funds to East Timor Eye Program in 2007, through the support of ProVision Optometry Teams who provide primary eye care services and training for local staff. The ProVision Optometry Teams work in conjunction with ophthalmology teams to provide all aspects of vision care.
The aim of the program is to build a comprehensive and sustainable eye care system in East Timor that will make the region self-sufficient in the provision of eye care while delivering eye care services to meet the immediate needs of East Timorese. ETEP is working to achieve this mission through a combination of service visits, training and mentoring local eye care professionals, providing affordable supplies of spectacles, as well as building and infrastructure development activities.
ProVision Optometry Teams make six visits each year to different regions of East Timor. Right now, (week commencing 23 January), a team of volunteer Australian optometrists is in the country working alongside East Timorese eye care workers. mivision’s editor, Mark Cushway, has joined the group to assist in delivering services and will provide a thorough report on the program on his return.