PATIENTS as they travel to Cuba for eye surgery from Lynden Pindling International Airport on Friday.
Photo: Dante Carrer
By LETRE SWEETING
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE life-changing eye surgery will be provided to hundreds of mostly elderly Bahamians yearning to see again, with the Ministry of Health and Wellness launching the programme on Friday by sending 50 to Cuba for the procedure.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said some of the 600 people who will visit Cuba over the next several months have waited as long as five years to be treated.
Although the treatment is available privately in The Bahamas, getting it is “long and tedious,” he told The Tribune yesterday, adding that Cuba can perform up to 200 eye surgeries daily.
Bahamians are staying in a hotel hospital in Cuba because many have other medical issues. Loved ones have accompanied some of them, and a team of patient advocates and assistants are part of the delegation.
Dr Darville could not say how much the programme costs but confirmed the government would cover the needs of patients, including housing.
He said the government is preparing to award a contract to renovate the Princess Margaret Hospital’s eye ward and theatres and will enhance resources to ensure “that our eye programme is not only maintained, but excelled.”
He said officials interviewed people needing eye surgery over the last three to four weeks and have been working with Cuba for one year and two months.
“The first batch will be in Cuba for seven to ten days,” he said. “They would have the procedures done. They would have the follow-up, and they would come back to New Providence, where further follow-up will take place.
“The second batch will go right after the first batch arrives, and so it will be ongoing until we complete the entire backlog.”
Some of the programme’s beneficiaries told this newspaper yesterday that they are grateful for the programme. They said ordinary tasks became difficult as their eye issues worsened, with some unable to drive or work.