Eye surgeries back on in Barbados

The Ophthalmology Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) will this week begin clearing the backlog of glaucoma surgeries that have accumulated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Dawn Grosvenor, glaucoma specialist, told Barbados TODAY that as the department observes World Glaucoma Week from March 7-11, some 15 to 20 glaucoma surgeries will be conducted at the QEH to begin the process of shortening the existing list of approximately 70 persons awaiting the surgery.

Dr Grosvenor, who is also chair of the organizing committee, said that while there have always been challenges with clearing the backlog in the past, the pandemic has contributed to further delays.

She said she would normally operate on four to six glaucoma patients every other week on the one day the operating theatre is assigned to her. She explained that while there are ten consultants in the department with only five operating days, every week at least three persons are added to the list for glaucoma surgery.

“When you have glaucoma, the persons at the biggest risk of losing their vision are the people waiting for surgery. And one of the reasons is that we have a real problem with late detection. Every year we try to push the importance of getting your eyes checked for glaucoma because it is known as the silent thief of sight. If you don’t get your eyes checked for it, you wouldn’t know you have it.

“Now you can imagine if somebody comes late with 90 per cent damage to their nerves already, and that is very common, then we are trying to hold on to the 10 per cent of nerve that they have left while we try to figure out what is the best treatment for them. By the time we get to the surgical option, then we are still just dealing with 10 per cent.

“If you don’t get your surgery in a timely fashion then all that time more damage is building up. And we don’t want to be at a stage where we have allowed people to lose their vision while they are waiting on surgery. That is why it is really important to address this backlog,” the specialist said

However, Dr Grosvenor said that for World Glaucoma Week 2022, other consultants in the Ophthalmology Department have agreed to contribute to the initiative, but indicated that emergency eye surgeries will be facilitated this week once cases arise.

“Monday, we had an urgent paediatric case which obviously will take priority so that has pushed us down to starting on Wednesday. What we are going to do is operate Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and then we are going to spill over into the weeks to come to make up the rest of the time. For glaucoma surgery the waiting list is about 70 persons and they would have been waiting for different lengths of time.

“What we have done is prioritized the persons who have been either waiting the longest or are in the most danger of losing their vision because their pressure is at the highest. During this week in these three days we might get say 12 to 15 persons covered and then we will do the others and that will kickstart us with four to six persons every other week,” Dr Grosvenor said.

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