Western Cape Health Address Preventable Blindness
With an indigent population of about four (4) million in Cape Town, it is estimated that thirty thousand (30 000) people are blind of which twenty three thousand (23 000) blind cases could have been prevented, because the origin of their blindness are either glaucoma, diabetes or cataracts - all treatable.
In his address to the Cape Society of Ophthalmic Nurses at the Cape Eye Hospital on 10 June, the Western Cape Minister of Health said Western Cape provincial government is in the early planning stages of sending ophthalmic care to rural areas so that elderly people, who are unaware of their sight condition, can be treated and their sight returned.
Botha said it is not possible for government to carry the burden of disease alone. "We need to address the health burden as a sector. Collaboration is the name of the game - the public sector together with the private sector, None Governmental Organisation's (NGO's) and None Profitable Organisation's (NPO's) - in fact all parties with a stake in the wellness of people." Botha said Western Cape government is looking into the opportunities that would lie in a national health initiative rather than a national health insurance. "We believe government cannot carry that burden, and that a national health insurance plan will force the private sector to lower their standards, and what should be happening is that public health services should upgrade their standards."
However, as the political leader of the provincial Department of Health, I need to address the problem of large numbers of our people who suffer from glaucoma and diabetes, and whose vision deteriorates over a long period of time, and they never visit a health facility for screening because they are unaware of the relation between their disease and their gradual loss of vision. And the sadness is that with the right equipment, their disease and their blindness can be treated and they can live normal lives.
In this reality, my role is to facilitate stakeholders to become involved, and assist our provincial health department with equipment, awareness campaigns, and capacity building so that more people can have access to regular eye examinations and screenings - especially older people. That is what I would call "the vision of sight".
Minister Botha attended the handing-over of a six thousand rand (R60 000) donation from the Cape Society for Ophthalmic Nurses to the National Council of the Blind. Mr. Philip Bam, treasurer of the National Council of the Blind, and executive head of the League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB), said Western Cape government's open door approach is enlightening.
Western Cape Minister of Health