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Hospital staff in blindness mercy flight to Ethiopia

Hospital specialists have taken their skills to Ethiopia to help reduce cases of diabetic blindness.

Patients in Ethiopia are checked for diabetic-related eye problems by staff at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.
Patients in Ethiopia are checked for diabetic-related eye problems by staff at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Hospital specialists have taken their skills to Ethiopia to help reduce cases of diabetic blindness.

The staff from the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Solihull Hospital, have been sent there to detect cases of sight threatening diabetic retinopathy, a common complication from the condition that can lead to blindness.

The first diabetic retinopathy screening clinics at the Black Lions Diabetes Centre in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa was established in 2006 and the team has since trained 40 healthcare professionals in Ethiopia to help run the programme.

The team work with the Ethiopian Diabetes Association (EDA) and have raised enough money to purchase five digital cameras and two Pascal lasers.

With a population of 90 million, Ethiopia is seeing a steadily increasing number of diabetic patients since the service began.

Thanks to the help of staff at the trust, the Ethiopian Eye Screening Programme has now secured funding from the Ethiopian Diabetes Association and World Diabetes Foundation. As long as screening and treatment targets continue to be met, there are plans for the service to be extended to new sites across the country in the future.

Paul Galsworthy, joint programme manager at Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country Diabetic Eye Screening Programme, said: “It is a privilege to be able to help people living in a country like Ethiopia, who do not have access to the same standard of healthcare as those living in the UK.

“Through donations and raised funds, I have been lucky enough to visit Ethiopia five times to help set up the new digital camera technology and train staff how to use it, which is making a huge difference to the lives of people living with diabetes.

“Those with diabetes are being tested for any signs of deteriorating eye sight in a timely manner, ensuring early signs of diabetic retinopathy are detected early and managed and treated appropriately.

“We are proud to be sharing the experience and expertise of diabetes specialists in Birmingham and offering it to those less fortunate than us in Ethiopia.”

 

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Cathrina Hulse
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Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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