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Tolossa Bikila

In 2007 Tolossa was deployed as an ophthalmic nurse to Goba Hospital (a government hospital) where there were no dedicated facilities (outpatient, refraction, inpatient spaces) or medical equipment for basic eye care service provision.

Over several months/years, Tolossa worked tirelessly to convince the Zonal health department management to dedicate space in the hospital for eye care and to allocate budget for essential eye health medical equipment and supplies.

At the beginning of his deployment, the eye care service was served by him and one general nurse and served 10-20 patients annually. Tolossa created links with all out-patients Heads, including wards, letting them know there was now an eye health service established in the hospital. As a result, over the five years Tolossa worked in the eye care unit, it became popular and patient numbers increased tenfold.

However, one patient changed his outlook. Over this first five years in the hospital, and as the only ophthalmic nurse, he established a fully functional primary eye care unit and successfully advocated for additional eye care professionals (including optometrists and more ophthalmic nurses) with the zonal health department. But one day, Tolossa met with a patient who made him realise he still needed to do more. This patient had bilateral cataract and was blind. As he would normally have done, he advised the patient that he needed to refer him to the next closest hospital (which was 170kms away) as cataract surgery was not possible where they were in Goba. The patient burst into tears as he would be unable to make the journey as he had no one to accompany him. That was a moment of change for Tolossa, for him to be an ophthalmic nurse was not enough if there was no one operating on cataracts, which is the most needed service across the Goba community.

Tolossa then explored opportunities to continue his education and joined the cataract surgeons training. Despite more opportunities for him to get better job offers in other major towns, Tolossa came back to Goba to provide cataract services to the community.

As a result of Tolossa’s commitment to changing and improving eye health care in Goba; five years later, the eye care unit is now a fully functioning secondary eye care centre, serving the community through outreach services and base hospital eye care. Tolossa is an inspirational changemaker for eye health and passionately serves his community.

I am proud to work for the community who are very neglected and have challenges in accessing eye health service. I am passionate to provide outreach services where the real disadvantaged group are served. Apart from the clinical service I also contribute a lot for eye health management as an eye care department head. I believe you need to be visionary and have persistence to serve our community.

– Tolossa Bikila