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Jakarta Post

West Nusa Tenggara lacks ophthalmologists

  • Panca Nugraha

    The Jakarta Post

Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara   /   Sun, May 29, 2016   /  10:22 am
West Nusa Tenggara lacks ophthalmologists Save your eyesight – Two ophthalmologists perform a cataract surgery in a hospital in Jakarta. People with cataracts in West Nusa Tenggara are at greater risk of vision loss because of a lack of ophthalmologists. (Tempo/-)

More than 40,000 cataract patients in West Nusa Tenggara need surgery, but there are only 19 ophthalmologists in the province, placing residents at greater risk of vision loss.

Health Agency head Eka Junaedi said the number of people with cataracts in West Nusa Tenggara had continued to increase and is out of balance with the capacity of the province to carry out cataract surgery.

“Based on data from a survey conducted by the West Nusa Tenggara Health Agency in 2014, the number of people with cataracts in the province reached more than 40,000. Meanwhile, the local administration had a capacity to perform cataract surgery to in between 6,000 and 8,000 people per year. This already includes social responsibility programs provided by other parties,” Eka said in Mataram on Tuesday.

He explained that in 2014, the West Nusa Tenggara Health Agency conducted an eye health survey on people aged more than 50 years in 10 regencies and municipalities across the province. The survey revealed that about 40,000, 4 percent of the total 1.1 million population aged more than 50 years in the province, were at risk of blindness caused by cataracts.

Eka said since 2014, there had been no follow up survey because conducting an eye health survey like the one carried out in that year needed a large budget. Before 2014, the agency performed an eye survey in 1996.

Despite the absence of recent data, Eka said, the West Nusa Tenggara Health Agency predicted that the number of people suffering from cataracts in the province had continued to increase from year to year because of the very limited capacity of the local administration to tackle the problem.

“The number of cataract patients in West Nusa Tenggara is continuously increasing. This can be seen from the piling up of cataract patients who need a surgery at the province’s People Eye Health Agency [BKMM]. We are facing difficulties handling that because up until now the number of ophthalmologists in West Nusa Tenggara was only 19,” said Eka. He said the 4.8 million people in the province needed more eye specialists. Moreover, he said the available eye specialists were not evenly distributed across the province.

According to official data, seven out of 19 ophthalmologists currently serve at the West Nusa Tenggara Regional General Hospital (RSUD) in Mataram. Two ophthalmologists serve at the BKMM West Nusa Tenggara in Mataram, while five other eye specialists are assigned to serve at the RSUD Mataram, the RSUD East Lombok, the RSUD North Lombok, the RSUD West Lombok and the RSUD in Bima regency. Five ophthalmologists operate in private clinics in Mataram.

“Several regencies, such as Central Lombok, Sumbawa, West Sumbawa, Dompu and Bima City, have no ophthalmologists up until now, although results of the 2014 survey show that there are a lot number of people with cataracts in Sumbawa,” said Eka.

Eka further explained that excessive exposure to sunlight and age were two main causes of cataracts, a cloudiness in the eye tissues, in West Nusa Tenggara. Farmers and fishermen were prone to suffer this eye problem once they turned 40. Although cataracts did not cause death, they could hamper people’s productivity because of their decline of vision leading to permanent vision loss.

“That’s why we are striving to increase the number of eye specialists in West Nusa Tenggara. Regency and municipality administrations also must play an active role to fulfil the needs of people in their respective areas,” said Eka.

BKMM West Nusa Tenggara head Bagio Ariyogo Murdani said it was predicted the agency would manage to deliver eye surgery to only about 1,000 patients throughout this year.

“Just like in previous years, the number of cataract surgeries performed can increase if there are social assistance programs from other parties,” he said.

Bagio admitted the lack of eye specialists had hampered efforts to reduce the number of people with cataracts in West Nusa Tenggara. For people from areas where hospitals did not have eye specialists, a cataract surgery could be very costly, even for holders of government-funded people’s health insurance schemes, Jamkesmas and BPJS.

“Although their cataract surgeries can be covered by Jamkesmas or BPJS, people from Sumbawa, for instance, must spend a lot of money for transportation and accommodations if they have to undergo surgery in Mataram,” said Bagio. (ebf)

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