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The future looks bright for the people of Oecussi, East Timor

The future looks bright for the people of Oecussi, East Timor

Provision Optometrist Colin McKenzie delivers upbeat assessment of recent visit

Colin McKenzie, an optometrist from Total Eyecare in Hobart, has recently returned from his 4th visit to Oecussi, a coastal exclave in the western part of the island of Timor. He was there representing ProVision Optometric Teams as  part of the East Timor Eye Program which is coordinated by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), with funding provided by Optometry Giving Sight.

“I have confidence that Oecussi Hospital Eye Clinic can provide appropriate eye care for basic refraction needs, treatment of most acute medical eye conditions, and appropriate selection of surgical candidates for Cataract and Pterygium surgery,” he said. “While further training is still required in certain areas, this can be done locally or by future visiting eye care teams”.

Colin in East Timor

From left, Lazaro, patient, Isha and Colin.

Colin said his role as the team Optometrist was predominantly to mentor and train the 2 Eye Care workers - Lazaro (Eye Care Nurse / Optometrist), and Isha (Eye Care Technician / refractionist) - and to assist the other East Timorese team members from the capital in Dili.

“It was a joy to work in partnership with the local Timorese eye care staff, mentoring and training them in eye care, history taking, diagnosis and management of disease, improving their refraction skills and encouraging them in the development of their profession,” he said. “I have seen significant growth in their knowledge and skills over the last 5 years”.

They worked closely with the RACS surgical team in screening and pre-operative selection and preparation of surgical candidates. The RACS team performed about 45 operations, mostly cataract and some Pterygia.

The Optometrists team examined approximately 201 patients. Many had eye disease, blindness or other functional visual issues not corrected by basic refraction. They also provided diabetic and glaucoma eye examinations and reviews.

“I particularly remember a little old couple who had walked during the night from a remote village,” said Colin. “The husband led his wife, blind with dense cataracts, with a stick to attend for cataract surgery. It took them a day to walk to the hospital. She had surgery that evening and was delighted with the result the next day. Amazing to witness!”

Valerio and Lazero

From left, patient with Valerio and another patient with Lazero.

Colin said it was inspiring to see Dr Valerio Andrada, the Senior Registrar from Dili, Lazaro and the rest of the team working together.

“This is their program and their future,” he said. “It is great to see them developing and taking their future in their own hands”.

Photos courtesy Colin McKenzie