National Eye Centre: Changing the Narrative of Eye Care in Nigeria
By Nicholas Dekera
The National Eye Centre, Kaduna is the apex Federal Government owned eye hospital in Nigeria. It was commissioned to start full operations at the hospital complex in December 1992 as the then government’s response to increasing incidence of eye health issues among Nigerians sometimes leading to irreversible blindness.
Its mandate is to provide preventive, curative and rehabilitative eye care services to all Nigerians and even patients from the West African sub-region. This it has been engaged in doing successfully for years.
Blessed with a formidable team of professionals in relevant fields of endeavour, the Centre’s vision is “to reduce blindness in Nigeria through the provision of qualitative, comprehensive and cost-effective eye care services, education, Training, Research and policy Advocacy”.
In line with the above, the Centre’s core values are, Patients/Clients First, Result-oriented, Integrity, Quality Care, Teamwork, Commitment and
Recently, Chief Medical Director Dr. Mahmoud Alhassan, had maintained that “National Eye Center is a training institution for Ophthalmology in Nigeria and Ophthalmologists and other eye health care manpower across the nation have benefitted from the Centre’s knowledge bank in one way or the other by being participants in any of the various eye health care manpower development programmes run by the Centre”
In the past five years, it has attended to an average of 39,261 patients per year,
mainly Nigerians from various walks of life apart from its various community outreach programmes.
This progress story has been made possible by the various Managements and staff of the Centre with the support of various governments. On continuous health success Dr. Alhassan said the following has been making effort to ensure the story continues on the upward side.
Though the last management started sub-specialty departments by training or supporting our Ophthalmologists to train, as the case may be, in various sub-specialties like Cataract and Glaucoma, Cornea, Paediatric/Strabismus, Oculoplasty and Vitreo-retina, non availability of needed operational equipment made it difficult for Nigerians to benefit maximally from these trainings.
However, in the recent past, the present Management apart from retraining some of those formerly trained, to update them on the global standard best practices in their fields for optimal outcomes for their patients, also trained new ones as back up for the sub-specialties already on ground. Some nurses and biomedical engineers/technicians were also trained in some of the sub-specialties to effectively assist the surgeons.
To give teeth to these training, the Management within the past few years, through capital projects, acquired some additional equipment to enable the sub-specialists practice and by extension make Nigerians benefit from their services.
Mahmoud revealed that “Centre now undertakes Vitreo-retinal surgery which had been a serious problem for average Nigerian patients with retinal detachment and other diseases of the retina who could not afford the exorbitant prices of the one or two private and overseas hospitals offering such services.
This became possible with the recent acquisition of consumables for the vitrectomy machine and training of relevant staff on the use of the machine. Patients with retinal diseases are now referred to the Centre from various parts of the Nation.
Daniel Agba who had suffered from retinal disease before said, “I was referred to this place from a prominent hospital in my state Enugu, I didn’t wanted to come but a friend encouraged me to come and am amazed by what I saw, honestly the machines and staff I met are great. I told my wife yesterday that I never knew Nigeria has this kind of eye services offered here”.
Other pieces of equipment enhancing retinal services purchased by this present Management include an Argon Laser used for non-invasive retina photocoagulation; Wireless BIO used for indirect fundoscopy and for doing
certain types of retinal surgery; DRI-OCT (Triton Plus), a three dimensional optical coherence tomogram used for anterior and posterior segment imaging, tomography of the retina and optic nerve, OCT/Fluorescein Angiography and fundus Photography.
Others are IridexMicropulse Laser Machine for non-invasive retinal photocoagulation, trabeculoplasty, etc. All of these have made the Centre a succour for patients with retinal diseases.
Cornea transplant has also been an area former Managements trained sub-specialists in, but has not been carried out in the Centre due to lack of donor
tissues, necessary equipment and consumables including an eye bank. With the recent purchase of Auto-Kerato-Refracto-Tonometre, Wave front Analyser, Specular Microscope, Excimerlazer machine and Construction of an Eye Bank, the Centre has been able to successfully carry out its first successful Cornea Transplant.
The complexity of acquiring and preserving donor tissues is though still a challenge but Management is working hard to overcome it so that Nigerians who need Cornea transplant can easily access the service in the
For the oculoplasty Unit, the requirements for the Centre to start its own manufacturing of artificial eyes is more than eighty percent on ground. This will remove the hassles of procuring from outside sources and prolonged waiting on the part of patients who need it for cosmetic purpose.
Paediatric Ophthalmology Services in the Centre has also improved, according to Amina Aliyu mother of a young patient, “with the procurement of A and B Scanner as well as EyeCare Tonometer for measuring intra-ocular pressure for mainly paediatric patients, handheld pachymeter and keratorefractometer amongst others hope has being rekindled in us”.
Other additions that have improved eye care services offered to our patients are
non contact tonometer and pachymeter. The Optical Unit has a new Blocking machine for surfacing of lenses, Grooving Machine for mounting of half
rimmed frames, Drilling Machines for drilling holes on lenses for rimless lenses, Automatic Edger used for edging and fixing lenses all for the benefit of the patients.
The Optometry Unit now effectively offers low vision services to our teeming patients with the procurement of low vision devices. There have been
progressive renovation of the hospital complex and to crown it all, this Management has been able to start Electronic Medical Records (EMR) which is the practice globally.
There have also been increase in community based service delivery via outreaches, school eye health visit and work place services.
Ahmed Gambo a teacher in Turunku maintained that “Since Dr. Alhassan Mahmoud became Director this community have seen increase medical attention, honestly we are grateful to Allah, I am a beneficiary of Eye center outreach and I know most of us in Igabi local government area are happy with the hospital”
Community outreaches are carried out in different Local Government Areas in Kaduna State with an adopted outreach Centre for subsidised cataract surgery at General hospital, Turunku managed by the National Eye Centre Community Eye Care (NECCEP) also a brainchild of this Management.
It will not be possible to put down all the achievements that have improved Eye Care services in the National Eye Centre. Suffice it to say that the Centre is on course in line with its Vision, Mission and Core Values. Nigerians are encouraged to save their hard earned money from travelling overseas and avail themselves of the Centre’s Service for Sight.
There is no gain saying that the centre is is meeting up with global standard when it comes the quality of services and changing the narrative of eye care in Nigeria.