Many villagers in Ramechhap rely on health camps for eye treatmentEye patients are increasing due to inadequate treatment services at government health institutions, say health workers.
Tikaram Lama, a 74-year-old man from Ramechhap Municipality-6, is a diabetic. He has been living with the chronic disease for more than a decade now. Over the years, Lama has been suffering from vision deterioration and night blindness, but had not sought treatment given the lack of ophthalmology services in his village.
It was only last year that Lama got his eyes checked at a health camp organised in the municipality.
“I got to know how serious my condition was only after I visited the health camp. There are no eye treatment centres in my village so there was no way I could have known about my condition,” said Lama. “There are no government or private eye treatment centres in Ramechhap except the District Community Eye Centre, Manthali. But I couldn’t go to Manthali for a checkup. I got my eyes checked last year at the health camp in the municipality and the doctors told me that if I didn’t get treatment soon I would go completely blind.”
Despite the diagnosis, Lama could not get treatment because he couldn’t afford the surgery required to correct his vision. “The private eye clinics are expensive so I did not go there. If there was a government eye treatment facility in the district, I would have sought treatment.”
Lama says there is now no hope for him to restore his vision. “The doctors told me that my condition is now incurable,” he said. “If I had sought treatment earlier, maybe there would be a cure for me.”
Not only Lama, but the number of eye patients is increasing in Ramechhap due to a lack of effective eye treatment services in government health institutions. There is no eye treatment service at health posts in rural areas or at the district hospital.
Residents of rural areas depend on health camps to get treatment, especially for conditions requiring surgeries.
The District Community Eye Centre, Manthali, Ramechhap, operated by the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, is the only eye treatment centre in the district set up some 22 years ago. According to the centre, about 10,000 eye patients who live in the rural areas of the district need cataract surgery. So far, the centre has treated 153,700 eye patients and performed cataract surgeries on 4,600 people.
Umesh Tamang, head of the centre, said that the centre has launched a programme to screen 18,000 patients for eye problems and is planning to start a campaign to test the eyes of 20,000 children in the rural areas of the district. "With the approval of the District Coordination Committee, the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, in collaboration with local governments, we will conduct 10 surgery camps at different rural places in Ramechhap and perform eye surgery on 10,000 cataract patients,” said Tamang. “The institution is also working to open three eye treatment centres in three rural areas of the district within the next four years with the help of the local government," he added.
Hari Karki, senior officer at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, said that in urban areas, people are aware of the importance of routine eye checkups, but in rural areas, people are still very vulnerable. "Around 20 percent of the citizens of the country suffer from eye-related problems, out of whom, 15 percent need to wear prescription glasses. One percent of them are blind,” said Karki. “There are no government eye centres in the district, due to which several people are deprived of eye treatment, and we are working to change that,” he added.