Health ministry launches GY$1.8 billion eye care programme

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 June 2024, 18:28 by Writer

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony (seated) and Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai presents a voucher to a woman at the launch of the eye care programme.

The government officially launched its eye-testing and spectacles programme which will benefit thousands of vulnerable individuals on Tuesday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).

The programme will see these individuals accessing financial assistance from the government to get their eyes tested and outfitted with the required spectacles.

Individuals under 18 years of age, and those over 65, will receive a $2,000 voucher for an eye test. If they require spectacles, they will receive a $15,000 voucher.

Some $840 million has been earmarked in the national budget for the eye tests, while $995 million was set aside to subsidise spectacles cost.

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony stated that this programme forms part of the government’s holistic approach to healthcare. He said this aimed at preventative measures.

“What we want to do here is a comprehensive eye care programme, starting with screening for prevention at the younger age, and even if we find something, we will fix it, and as you grow older, we will have programmes in between so that we can address whatever problems we are finding at different age ranges,” he was quoted as saying by government’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

The Minister reminded everyone that the government aims to offer 115 different interventions at the primary healthcare level.

He emphasised the importance of engaging the private sector to ensure that more individuals can access these services.

“We recognise that while we have capacity in the Ministry of Health, we would not be able to screen so many people at one time with our facilities. So, we have enlisted the help of the private sector and we have had some meetings with the private sector, all those who are licensed to be able to do screening. We have done that evaluation of them,” he said.

Last week, the health ministry signed several memoranda of understanding (MOU) with several private healthcare providers for this, and the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme.

These eyecare vouchers are valid at Da Silva’s Optical, Miracle Vision Care, Regina’s Optical, Courts Optical, Optique Vision Care, Dr Balwant Singh Hospital, Doobay-Gafoor Medical & Research Centre, Eye Max Optical, Bhagwan’s Optical, Optical Works, Ming’s Optical and Eye Care Guyana, among other facilities.

Minister Anthony said that while many of these facilities are based in Georgetown, several have affiliate branches in different regions.

He stated that they would be travelling to the various regions to provide screening services where they are not available.

“This is not just a Georgetown programme. It is for the whole country. So, we are making sure that we provide the vouchers to people, and we also want to make sure that the providers are there to do the test,” he said.

Recognising the number of conditions that can affect one’s eyes, including myopia, glaucoma and cataracts, the minister underscored the importance of regular eye exams.

Through this programme, the ministry also hopes to identify more persons who need optical operations so they can be provided with much-needed assistance.

“We have a separate programme that the ministry is running where, if you have a cataract, then we can work with you. We will put you on a list, then we’ll bring you in and make sure that you can get the surgery,” Minister Anthony explained.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Sonia Parag, private sector representatives and other stakeholders were present at the launch.