Keeping HCP Partners Safe Amid Covid-19

Advancing the skills and capacities of ophthalmic personnel of all levels is a key component of Himalayan Cataract Project’s model to build sustainable eye care systems in under-resourced countries.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the worldwide Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic in March, six ophthalmologists from Ethiopia and Ghana were pursuing HCP-supported sub-specialty training internationally. HCP mobilized a coordinated effort to assure the health and safety of every sponsored trainee by arranging immediate return to their home countries. We’re happy to report that today, all HCP trainees are reporting that they’re in good health and feeling safe.

For many of our ophthalmic trainees, the rapid global spread of the coronavirus has meant the premature interruption of their course of study and the difficult decision to return home.

Dr. Naa Tagoe of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana had started a three-month observership in neuro ophthalmology Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She boarded a flight back to Accra in mid-March. She was disappointed to miss the final weeks of her program, but was able to rejoin her family before quarantine protocols were put in place.

Dr. Asrat Sime of St. Paul’s Hospital in Ethiopia had started his fellowship studies in oculoplastics in December with Dr. Mo Hartstein, an oculoplastics sub-specialist in Israel. As it became increasingly clear that the Covid-19 outbreak was evolving into a global pandemic, HCP made arrangements for Dr. Asrat to return to Addis where he’s currently quarantined in a hotel, protecting both himself and others before rejoining his family.

“We really enjoyed having Asrat spend these last few months with us. Thanks to all of you for making this happen. I know you guys worked very hard to make this a reality, and secured the funds to support him. I hope Asrat will be able to return here sometime and that I will be able to work with him in Addis.- Dr. Mo Hartstein

Dr. Bezawit Tadegagne Abera of St. Paul’s Hospital in Ethiopia has chosen to continue her studies on-line while remaining in an apartment in Nepal. She started her 5-month fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology at the beginning of December under the mentorship of Dr. Srijana Adhikari. By the time Nepal was affected by the spread of the coronavirus, Dr. Bezawit decided that she would be putting herself and her family at greater risk by potentially exposing herself in airports and on the plane. She chose to remain working on her research with Dr. Srijana under self-quarantine in Nepal.

“ I must applaud TIO for the way they are dealing with the issue of corona from the beginning. I do feel adequately protected with all the necessary protective measures put in place. As Nepal is in lockdown for a week beginning from March 24/20, only emergency eye conditions are seen currently with the necessary protective wear given to frontline staff who become in contact with patients. Hand sanitizers are everywhere for public use and we were also given N95 masks by the institution even before the lockdown.” - Dr. Bezawit

HCP is actively pursuing opportunities to continue training using distance learning tools to advance skill transfer in the face of challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Internet connectivity is allowing several doctors to continue their studies, even while waiting in quarantine.

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