Over 100.000 Timorese people receive eye treatment from RACS-Global Health’s Eye Program

Over 100.000 Timorese people receive eye treatment from RACS-Global Health’s Eye Program

(Photo Tatoli/Egas Cristovao)

DILI, 01 may 2022 (TATOLI) – Over 100.000 Timorese people had received eye treatment from the East Timor Eye Program (ETEP) of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)- Global Health.

The East-Timor Eye Program (ETEP) was established by the RACS- Global Health, in partnership with the Ministry of Health in 2000, aiming to increase patient access to eye care throughout Timor-Leste, building the capacity of the Timorese eye health workforce to meet service and patient needs and improving service and system-level coordination and planning.

“So far, we have provided eye treatment to more than 100.000 Timorese people. The treatment included screening, eye surgery, blepharoplasty, etc,” Ophthalmologist of the RACS-Global Health in Timor-Leste, Manoj Sharma, told reports after meeting President Horta at the Presidential Palace, in Dili, on wednesday.

Sharma said 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.

He said the goal of the East Timor Eye Program (ETEP) is to reduce preventable blindness in Timor-Leste: “We helped to build a sustainable, self-sufficient, and effective eye health system for the Timorese people.”

ETEP delivers a wide range of in-country training activities and facilitates capacity building of the national eye health workforce through education and clinical service delivery coupled with on-the-job mentoring and training.

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 center to ensure 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.

Since 2000, ETEP has: Supported the training of Timor-Leste’s first three national ophthalmologists; trained nine Timorese doctors in the 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.

“In 2013, when I first arrived in Timor-Leste to work for RACS, there was only one ophthalmologist. But now we have 14 ophthalmologists. These ophthalmologists can perform ocular surgery not only at the Guido Valadares National Hospital but also at the established surgical centers at Referral Hospitals,” Sharma said.

In addition to the provision of eye care services, ETEP also provides services in Gynecology, Anesthesia, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, etc.

During the meeting, the Head of the RACS-Global Health, Philipa Nicholson shared with President Horta about the progress of the ETEP in Timor-Leste.

“We informed President Horta about the success of the East Timor Eye Program and our ongoing work in Timor-Leste to ensure that we provided eye health services to all people,” Philipa Nicholson said.

She emphasized that ETEP was always committed to ensuring that it provided the right services with the right specialists, doctors, and nurses: “We work very much with the Ministry of Health to ensure that we train staff from the Ministry of Health to provide those services in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste.”

Nicholson said ETEP would be handed over to the Ministry of Health (MoH) over the next three to five years.

“We always plan to transition the program to MoH to fully own the program. So, we are currently in the transition phase where over the next three to five years, the ETEP will be handed over to MoH,” she said.

With providing eye care for Timorese people for more than two decades, ETEP has significantly contributed to the development of a comprehensive, nationwide and sustainable eye health system. The ETEP is increasing community access to high-quality, affordable primary, secondary, and tertiary eye care services for the Timorese population.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization leading the way in surgical performance, professionalism, and patient care in Australia and New Zealand.

RACS supports ongoing learning and development for the surgical workforce of more than 7.000 surgeons and 1.300 surgical trainees and Specialist International Medical Graduates.


Journalist: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Nelia Borges


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