“Saturday Surgeries” and Expanding our Reach in Ghana

In 2016, HCP and its partners more than doubled the number of surgeries reported in 2015. Part of this increase is due to our partnership with Dr. Judith Simon – head ophthalmologist at the Tamale Teaching Hospital. Dr. Simon travels to remote villages outside the northern city of Tamale for the “Saturday Surgery” outreach program.

In December, HCP partner Dr. Simon brought a team from the Tamale Teaching Hospital to Yeji, a village along the Volta River some 300 kilometers south of Tamale. It was Dr. Simon’s second trip of the year to Yeji — both on Saturdays, the day she leads outreach trips into the countryside to provide eye care for residents living in remote and hard-to-reach places. Her team performed 30 cataract surgeries that Saturday, contributing to the record number of 3,494 total surgeries HCP and its three implementing partners performed in Ghana during 2016 - more than half took place in outreach settings. In addition to the eye surgeries, Himalayan Cataract Project partners continued to expand eye care infrastructure in Ghana, providing 10 training opportunities for ophthalmic personnel, including three sub-specialists, one resident, and four mid-level professionals.

In January, an operating microscope with teaching components became the newest addition to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. Purchased by HCP with USAID funds, the new microscope will make possible one-on-one surgical rotations for Ophthalmology residents from the two teaching hospitals in Kumasi and Accra. The number of training opportunities is expected to grow significantly in the coming year.

The numbers, though, don’t tell the heart of the story about our work in Ghana. Every single cataract surgery we perform changes a human life for the better, in many cases, profoundly. In Yeji, Dr. Simon’s team gave sight to a 23-year-old woman who had been blind since birth. Another woman, from a nearby village, returned to Yeji after having had surgery there during the previous outreach. She brought five members of her village with her, all of them blind, all of them living with the belief that blindness is simply an inevitable part of aging. While one of those people had untreatable glaucoma, the team from Tamale was able to restore the sight of the other four with a simple, inexpensive procedure. Dr. Simon, who has worked full-time in Ghana for the past three years, joked about the unofficial recruiting that helps spread the word of HCP’s work. She said, “We told that woman she’ll be getting a percentage soon!”