DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 October) — The Southern Philippines and Medical Center (SPMC) received on Tuesday afternoon a brand new retinal camera equipment worth USD $125,000 (approximately PhP 5.25 M) to support the efforts of this medical institution to prevent blindness caused by a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
The machine is the first of its kind in Mindanao and the fifth outside of Metro Manila.
According to the website of the National Eye Institute of the United States, ROP is “a potentially blinding eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants weighing about 2¾ pounds (1250 grams) or less that are born before 31 weeks of gestation.”
According to kidshealth.org, ROP “causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. This growth can cause the retina to detach from the eye , leading to blindness.”
The SPMC was chosen as the recipient because of its efficient eye care facility with trained eye specialists and resident doctors, said Dr. Pearl M. Tamesis, chair of the technical working group of the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Leopoldo Vega, SPMC chief, said the donation will complement the existing equipment of the hospital’s eye care facility, including the two lasers used in treating eye conditions that may result in blindness.
Vega thanked Apl de Ap’s Campaign for Filipino Children for choosing SPMC, one of two government hospitals in Mindanao that has an eye care facility.
Fil-American rapper Apl de Ap of The Black Eyed Peas, whose real name is Allan Pineda Lindo, explained that helping visually-impaired children became his advocacy, having suffered from the same eye condition.
“It’s already hard enough growing up normal in the Philippines but imagine being blind, that’s 10 times hard growing up in the Philippines,” he said.
Vega said the new equipment will further improve services to the patients with eye conditions and at the same time harness the skills of resident doctors.
“Training and serving must be of the same coin,” he said.
Dr. Abdullah Dumama, director of the Department of Health (DOH) in Region 11, said blindness leads to an enormous human suffering “due to the loss of functional ability and self-esteem and contributes to significant reduction of quality of life and shortens life span.”
He said the World Health Organization has projected that the number of visually impaired patients worldwide may reach 76 million by 2020, if interventions are not implemented.
“The Philippines is a signatory to the global elimination of avoidable blindness
‘Vision 2020: The right to sight’,” he said.
He said the worldwide campaign is aimed at developing a sustainable comprehensive eye health care system to ensure an improved quality of life by reducing the risk of developing an eye condition, which may result in economic implications that will “manifest in the loss of productivity and income, and also can lead to social dependency.”
The DOH, he said, has scaled up its activities on public awareness on the importance of eye care to prevent blindness.
“Capability building activities for eye programs are being conducted and eye health teams are currently being established per province,” he said.
Tamesis said 80 percent of the major causes of blindness is preventable. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)