A visit to the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI) in Suva, Fiji has provided graduate optometrist Patrycja Zelazny with an opportunity to experience the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Fiji outreach program, which aims to provide training for local postgraduate students.
Sponsored by Specsavers, Ms Zelazny said her involvement with PEI allowed her to develop an understanding of those in need. The new environment, with little access to the sophisticated equipment she usually works with, also challenged her to trust her own ophthalmoscopy, retinoscopy and manual vertometry skills.
Ms Zelazny noted the prevalence of eye related issues stemming from causes not as widely problematic in Australia. “I was surprised to see a staggering number of malignant hypertension cases, and blood glucose levels that were unable to be read as they exceeded the maximum range of the blood glucose monitor,” she said.
“The main cause of low vision in the patients I saw was due to refractive error, cataracts and diabetes. Some people live with this for five to eight years before seeking attention, and for many, cataracts are not treated until aided vision is 6/60 or less due to long waiting lists.”
In many cases, the unaffordability of spectacles available in Suva proves the greatest obstacle for locals. While PEI provides a cheaper alternative, in special circumstances tailor-made spectacles supplied by Specsavers free of charge, help those otherwise unable to afford basic eye care.