A team of 50 volunteers from Australia’s not for profit organisation Cambodia Vision has completed an eye health outreach project to Kratie Provincial Hospital, five hours north of Phnom Penh.
Five ophthalmologists and six optometrists saw 3,000 people over just seven days, checking vision, undertaking surgeries and following up with the aid of four anaesthetists; theatre staff; and other volunteers. Patients ranged in age from babies through to a 100-year-old woman who required cataract surgery. Each of them sat for hours in the grounds of the hospital, in intense heat and 100 per cent humidity, waiting patiently to be seen.
Will Robertson from Designs for Vision was a volunteer, employing his skills as a former optical dispenser to take biometry measurements, auto refractions and keratometry.
“I would have seen about 1,400 people using the portable autorefractor keratometer, the results of which were read to a scribe who jotted them down on the patent’s record, and then we’d move on to the next patient. With little time to waste, our role was to prepare people to see the ophthalmologist in the most efficient way possible.”
From all accounts, corruption in Cambodia is rife and the value placed on life low. One anaesthetist came across a young girl who had fallen and become impaled on a fence. “She’d been operated on and would have died had not one of our anaesthetists, Tung Bui, taken her into his care and provided her with the correct medical attention, Sadly hospitals in a remote location like this are completely underfunded and under resourced. But before we knew it, she was whisked away with the medicine. We managed to find her again and hooked her up with more of our antibiotics.” In a world where this girl’s life was perhaps not perceived to be as important to save as another’s, Cambodia Vision managed to step in and make the difference.
Speaking to Mr. Robertson on the day after his return to Cambodia, he said the trip was “confronting, emotionally exhausting and physically draining”. He said the level of poverty and corruption in Cambodia was overwhelming and yet there was a glimmer of hope for this country’s future.
“There is a very strong educated youth movement, in Cambodia. For example, we had a group of medical volunteers who were our translators, and they know what the country is like. They’re working for change, trying to help their country out of the poverty stricken state it is in. These people are so beautiful and hopefully they will one day succeed.”
Cambodia Vision will begin fund raising for its 2015 outreach program within the next few months. You can find out more at cambodiavision.org.au