Speciality contact lens tutorial, Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology
Australian optometrists have helped set up Vietnam’s first contact lens clinic and are helping train one of the country’s two optometrists and ophthalmologists in contact lens prescription, fitting and care.
Adelaide optometrist and treasurer of Optometrists Association National Board Gavin O’Callaghan is a board member of Sight For All charity, which develops programs throughout South East Asia. Two years ago, he visited the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology in Hanoi when a rubella epidemic was leading to babies born with congenital cataracts.
‘The hospital needed a specialised contact lens clinic to help these babies. The epidemic has waned so there are fewer babies needing help but there are still patients with other eye diseases or injuries who require contact lenses,’ Mr O’Callaghan said.
‘In Vietnam people just buy disposable contact lenses from shops. There are no prescriptions and no education about hygiene and contact lens care so it is a disaster.’
After Mr O’Callaghan’s fact-finding trip in February, the clinic was established in a room at the institute using equipment donated by Australian manufacturers. He organised a team of volunteer optometrists who specialise in contact lenses to visit the clinic this year and next year to give lectures and help train staff including Minh Anh Tran, who qualified as an optometrist in India.
Brisbane optometrist and national board director Kate Johnson embarked on the first teaching trip in March and gave a presentation to about 100 staff ophthalmologists on indications for medical contact lens fitting.
‘The institute sees 1,500 patients a day. I was working within the refractive department although our program is also involving corneal and paediatric departments,’ she said. ‘Minh Anh Tran works closely with ophthalmologist Dr Huong and nurse Huong to manage patients.
‘I spent each day teaching speciality contact lens tutorials, with Minh Anh translating, and each afternoon we would see patients. In three days I saw multiple cases of post-refractive surgery ectasia, extremely high ametropia and advanced keratoconus.
‘Despite world-class knowledge and experience, the staff does not have access to world-class contact lens products but by achieving confidence through clinical teaching and accessibility to contact lens materials and designs we take for granted in Australia, there is a world of difference to be made to the Vietnamese people,’ Ms Johnson said.
‘Contact lenses are a medical necessity for these types of patients and can be life-changing.’