Mobile cataract service offers clearer vision for rural folk

Dr Chin (in black batik shirt), Dr Chieng (in black suit) and Sarawak General Hospital director Dr Ngian Hie Ung (left) at the Malaysia World Sight Day 2020 celebration in Kuching.

KUCHING: The Health Ministry’s mobile cataract service has screened over 20,000 patients in Sarawak’s rural areas since it was introduced in 2013, says state health director Dr Chin Zin Hing.

He said about 7,000 of the patients were successfully operated on, mainly for cataract removal.

“About 3,000 patients every year are being screened and 1,000 operated.

“Without this mobile clinic service, I don’t think we would be able to achieve this figure, ” he said when launching the Malaysia World Sight Day 2020 celebration here.

Dr Chin said the mobile cataract service was a “beacon of hope” for many Sarawakians living in rural areas who found it difficult to travel to towns or cities for proper treatment.

He said it aimed to perform mass comprehensive eye screening in rural settings, not only for cataract but also diabetic retinopathy, refractive error and glaucoma, to detect and prevent blindness.

“The service includes the rural population from Lundu in southern Sarawak all the way to Lawas in the north, ” he said.

In addition, he said the team also performs cataract operations in district hospitals at a nominal fee.

“For those who can’t afford to pay for the lenses, welfare or charity-supported intraocular lenses are offered, ” he said.

Dr Chin also noted that cataract was the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 39% globally and 58% in Malaysia, according to the National Eye Survey II in 2014.

“That is more than half of all the causes of blindness in our country. If we focus on cataracts, we can actually prevent half of the blindness cases in the country, ” he said.

Sarawak state ophthalmologist Dr Chieng Lee Ling said cataract surgery could be done in five centres in the state — the Sarawak General Hospital here, Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri hospitals.

“Cataract surgery only takes 15 minutes or less and the patient does not have to be admitted.

“It’s one of the safest surgeries in the world. We don’t want people not to do it because they are afraid, ” he said.

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