With approximately 500 qualified optometrists servicing a population of 1 billion people in India, much work, learning and interchange of knowledge is still needed to ensure access to quality eye care for the whole country.
Eyecare Plus National and Optometry Giving Sight set a challenge for a two-week journey around India for two Australian eye care professionals, focusing on local training and skills development.
Trudi Everingham (Optical Dispenser) and Peter McKay (Optometrist) were more than up to the task, and have returned from a rewarding experience in Hyderabad, India.
They both worked on a project to train sales staff and Optometrists in Patient Communication and Optical Dispensing at the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) for two weeks in November 2013. The LVPEI in Hyderabad is a Centre of Excellence where complex eye surgery and diseases are referred to for treatment, as well as simpler procedures.
Trudi and Peter both trained the staff in subjects such as the importance of accurate measurements when measuring heights, PD’s and aspheric lenses. They spoke about all aspects of Retail Sales from welcoming the patient to the sales area, to handling complaints, and the importance of following up to ensure the patient is happy with their new purchase.
The optical sales staff were very interested in topics such as selecting frames for face shape, purpose and cool and warm colours. Peter and Trudi said that one of the many highlights was having the pleasure of meeting Dr Gullapalli Rao, who established the LVPEI in 1986 after a successful career as an academic ophthalmologist in the USA.
Trudi and Peter also visited the Thudukurthy LVPEI Secondary Centre, which provides care for the surrounding population of 500,000 residents. Patients have access to treatment for a range of eye diseases including glaucoma and cataracts and are provided spectacles from as low as 120 rupees (about $2 AUD). The Centre is three hours from Hyderabad, meaning Trudi and Peter were able to visit some rural villages on the way. Here, technicians in local vision centres carry out refractions and basic eye health checks. Any patients with suspected eye diseases are referred to the Secondary Centre.
At the Bausch and Lomb School of Optometry in Kismatpur, Peter and Trudi spoke to third year optometry students on topics such as paediatric dispensing, specialty lens dispensing and progressive addition lenses. This complex was set up by LVPEI to reduce the extreme shortage of qualified optometrists in India.
During further training, Peter and Trudi had the pleasure of meeting the director of LVPEI Vizag, Merle Fernandes. A Consultant Ophthalmologist, Merle specialises in Cornea and Anterior Segment surgery. Peter and Trudi were surprised that the average age for cataract surgery in India is much younger than patients in Australia; patients in their late 40s, often due to long exposure to bright sunlight.
Peter was the guest lecturer to Optometry Fellows, Optometrists, and Optometry Interns in Vizag and via video conference to the smaller Vision Centre in Bhubaneswar. His lectures covered topics very similar to those at the Hyderabad campus and gave students the opportunity to ask questions on topics such as esophoria and amblyopia, troubleshooting of progressive lenses and prescribing contact lenses.
After two weeks with LVPEI in India, Trudi and Peter felt grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to improving the quality of care of patients of LVPEI. They had a great time and said that this adventure has certainly broadened their horizons.