The East Timor Eye Program (ETEP) was founded by Australian Ophthalmologist, Dr Nitin Verma, a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) in 2000. Initially the focus of ETEP was the provision of essential ophthalmic services in the post-independence era. Over the years, the scope of the program has expanded beyond service delivery and now focuses on training, capacity building and health systems strengthening support.
The goal of the ETEP is to reduce preventable blindness in Timor-Leste by helping build a sustainable, self-sufficient and effective eye health system for the Timorese people.
The program delivers a wide-ranging set of in-country training activities in ophthalmology, optometry, eye care nursing and allied eye health specialties, and facilitates capacity building of the national eye health workforce through education and clinical service delivery coupled with on the job mentoring and training.
- Increase patient access to eye care throughout Timor-Leste.
- Build the capacity of the Timorese eye health workforce to meet service and patient needs.
- Improve service and system-level coordination and planning.
Some of the key program activities and outputs:
ETEP includes the combined efforts of international visiting eye teams, monthly district surgical outreach visits, the placement of a long-term expatriate ophthalmologist in-country as well as the training and placement of trained eye care nurses and technicians throughout the country.
A major activity is the delivery of the in-country Post Graduate Diploma in Ophthalmology, through the National University of Timor-Leste. ETEP supports scholarships for overseas specialist training in ophthalmology, a critical component in the strategy to develop the Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares’ (HNGV) Department of Ophthalmology as a teaching centre to ensure the sustainability of Timor-Leste’s eye health workforce and services. The program also supports eye health infrastructure and improvements to patient management systems and referral pathways.
Activities are focused at the HNGV, the National Hospital in Dili, and in all districts via the delivery of outreach services and training support.
Since 2000, ETEP has:
- supported the training of Timor-Leste’s first three national ophthalmologists;
- trained nine Timorese doctors in country with a Postgraduate Diploma in Ophthalmology;
- trained eye specialist nurses, eye care workers, biomedical technicians, hospital administrators and community doctors in primary eye care;
- equipped the HNGV Department of Ophthalmology with a full range of sub-specialty ophthalmic equipment;
- established the national Prosthetics Eye Lab and trained the first Timorese ocularist;
- provided ongoing mentoring support to Timorese eye health workers across the health system; and
- played an integral advocacy role which culminated in the launch of the National Eye Health Strategy 2020-2050 by the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health in September 2020.
As HNGV approaches self-sufficiency in eye care services in 2020, the program is becoming increasingly focused on supporting the development of eye health services in the referral hospitals, strengthening referral pathways and expanding outreach services to increase access to eye care services for communities living in rural areas outside of Dili.
- The Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
- RACS Foundation for Surgery
- Dr John Kearney Scholarship
- Eye Surgery Foundation
- Fred Hollows Foundation Australia
- Lions Club International Foundation
- Optometry Giving Sight
- St Johns Ambulance Australia
In partnership with:
- Timor-Leste Ministry of Health
- Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares
- Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosae