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Challenges of optometrists in Nigeria resolvable — Dr Edward

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A Nigerian optometrist, Dr Chigaemezu Edward, has said that pecuniary problems associated with professional practices should be resolved to ease the pressure on provision of good healthcare, especially for optometrists in the country.

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He said optometrists, who are healthcare professionals providing primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes, need a good environment to carry out their duties.

According to him, “there are various challenges faced by optometrists in Nigeria, one of the major challenges is the fact that a lot of Nigerians are ignorant as to the need to get their eyes checked.

“A large percentage of Nigerians would rarely ever have their eyes checked because they would much rather believe that vegetables are enough. While vegetables are good and healthy for the eyes, it does not take away the necessity for one to have regular eye checkup,” Edward said.

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He informed that “Nigeria has approximately 700 ophthalmologists for about 188 million people,” and of accredited medical schools in Nigeria, he said, “twenty seven are accredited to train resident doctors in ophthalmology,” which according to him are part of the challenges because “each centre intake for residency training varies and this is usually determined by government policy and the hospital management, which recruit based on vacancy and availability of human and material resources for training.”

“It is, however, worthy to note that, challenges of material resources in terms of availability of modern equipment due to paucity of funds and poor funding by the government. Despite this, the few seasoned specialists still offer their best in training resident doctors, which still makes the standard of training the best in Africa,” Edward said.

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He noted that, the establishment of the Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria (OSN) in 1969 to create a forum wherein specialist can discuss issues related to eye diseases in Nigeria, has been of good advantage.

He said: “This organization has helped to bring together all the eye care specialists with the aim of improving eye care delivery services in Nigeria.
Nigerian ophthalmologists are expected to contribute to the prevention, diagnoses, and treatment of eye diseases working in cooperation with other eye care personnel.

“Many ophthalmologists trained in Nigeria are found working in well-established eye hospitals in the world. However, majority of them still concentrate their practice in the urban area of Nigeria leaving 80% of rural populace to travel many kilometres to access specialized eye treatment. Poor social amenities in the rural areas across Nigeria discourage ophthalmologists from working in rural communities.

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“There are shortages of important training instruments and equipments in all accredited medical training hospitals for ophthalmology residency. Other challenges include limited vacancy for training fresh graduated medical doctors who are interested in ophthalmology, poor policy and policy somersaulted by the Federal government, and nonchalant attitude of Ministry of Health discourage a number of trained ophthalmologists who desire to work in the rural Nigeria communities.”

He added that: “Low yearly budgetary allocation to the health sector by the federal and state governments also contributes to the poor yearly eye care services delivery in Nigeria.”

However, Edward, a young and rising optometrist, said the challenges highlighted could be resolved, as he suggest solutions which he said are not limited: “Improving human resources for eye health in all communities; “Improving material and equipment resources; “Improving access for equitable and accessible eye care; “Improving training of quantity of human resources for eye health; “Ensuring that the Nigerian populace is often educated about the importance of eye treatment.”

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