Increasing Patients Access to Services

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Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a public health issue in Pakistan, the sixth largest country of the world with a population of 192 million1. Pakistan is one of 20 countries of the International Diabetes Federation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)2. Research show that poor management of diabetes affects other vital organs of the body, the eyes being the first to be affected. This leads to a condition known as Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).  DR, if not controlled at its early stages can cause Sight Threatening Diabetic Retinopathy (STDR). These conditions can be treated with the help of lasers and or Intra Vitreal Injections and Vitreal Retinal surgeries. However, lack of awareness and access to quick service providers is a big hurdle in availing quality DR services.

To address the issue, International Agency for Prevention of Blindness with support from Standard Chartered Bank launched a project with Sightsavers entitled, “Strengthening Pakistan’s Response to Diabetic Retinopathy” in three major cities of Pakistan” in 2014. The project amongst other things, is focused on establishing inter-departmental linkages among the different units of the partner hospitals; increasing inter-organizational linkages among service providers to promote referrals and awareness regarding diabetes and its complications on eye sight.

Long waiting times at clinics and the distance between the different departments in the hospitals have been a major factor demotivating patients from seeking screening services which will lead to detection of symptoms of STDR.

To encourage and increase DM patient’s access to screening for Diabetic Retinopathy services, a window operation was opened at Al Ibrahim Eye Hospital Karachi. A DR unit with a Non Mediatric Fundus Camera was also established near the DM screening room of the main Out Patients Department (OPD) of the Mayo Hospital Lahore.

A trained optometrist/ ophthalmic technologist have been placed there who provides free screening to every referred DM patients for Diabetic Retinopathy.

This is to ensure that timely and appropriate services can be provided to identified STDR patients. The nearness to services has resulted in more DM patients being screened and provided affordable DR services.

To increase awareness, focused group discussions was carried out with few selected communities to understand effective means of capturing community attention. The outcome informed the development of appropriate, user-friendly information, education and communication (IEC) materials.

Sightsavers worked with Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan team to refine and finalize the materials before distribution. We are continuing to see greater improvement in the demand for screening services and consequent identification and treatment of STDR cases as a result of increased awareness.

Muhammad Bilal,
Program Manager,
Sightsavers
mbilal@sightsavers.org