Strengthening Primary and Secondary Eye Care Services in Timor-Leste and COVID-19 Pivot Project
The project aims to expand primary and secondary eye care services and facilitate early diagnosis and management of neglected ocular disease in Timor-Leste, through training primary eye care workers and essential equipment procurement. As vision loss in diabetics tends to occur in the working population, screening programs and early intervention have been shown to be economically beneficial to the community. This is most successful when centred around timely referrals, appropriate and accessible treatment and an emphasis on good primary care and integration into existing infrastructure. The project sits under the broader RACS East Timor Eye Program, with the overarching goal to reduce preventable blindness in Timor-Leste.
In 2020, the project pivoted to help the Timor-Leste health sector respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Recent studies indicate that while untreated cataract and refractive error remain the primary causes of vision impairment and blindness, vision deterioration due to diabetic retinopathy and other posterior segment disease is increasing.
The objectives of this project are to:
- increase the identification, diagnosis and management of diabetic retinopathy in Timor-Leste;
- increase eye screening and ophthalmic services for rural and remote Timorese populations; and
- assist Timor-Leste health sector respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the key project activities and outputs:
- Procurement of essential diagnostic equipment and training of community doctors to screen for diabetic retinopathy in Timorese patients.
- Support for the Timorese eye faculty to deliver outreach screening and clinical services to rural and remote populations in Los Palos and Suai districts.
- Fabrication and installation of 20 vital signs monitors and 40 patient bed dividers in the national hospital emergency department, triage tent and the government isolation and treatment facilities to better monitor COVID-19 cases.
The broader East Timor Eye Program (ETEP) is developing a comprehensive nation-wide and sustainable eye health system that increases community access to high quality, affordable primary, secondary and tertiary eye care services for the Timorese population. This project plays a critical role by increasing the capacity of the national eye health system to identify and treat diabetic retinopathy cases, which were previously undiagnosed in Timor-Leste.
Where there were previously no vital signs monitors available for observing COVID-19 cases in Timor-Leste, the installation of the new machines and patient bed dividers in the hospital and isolation facilities is contributing to improved patient monitoring and infection prevention control. To borrow machines from the national hospital wards would mean that normal hospital services would suffer. Supplying these machines allows COVID-19 patients to be properly monitored and regular hospital services to continue as normal.
- The Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
- RACS Foundation for Surgery
In partnership with:
- Timor-Leste Ministry of Health
- Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares