In 2017, Eye Care Foundation agreed to a long-term collaboration to support the comprehensive eye care project in Rwanda started by Dr Piet Noë, a Belgian ophthalmologist.
Dr. Piet Noë has been working for 8 years in Rwanda and has committed himself to helping the eye patients in this country, focusing on the poor population. He has gained a clear understanding of eye care in Rwanda, and acquired experience setting up a successful eye department in Rwanda Kabgayi Hospital, while working there as the ophthalmologist. Acutely aware of the great shortage of ophthalmologists and of quality eye care facilities available in Rwanda, he started the preparations for the eye care project Vision For All Rwanda.
For the years 2017-2020, the eye care project Vision For All Rwanda consists of the following phases:
Phase 1: Construction of Rwanda Charity Eye Hospital (2016-2017)
The Rwanda Charity Eye Hospital (RCEH) will be an efficient surgical eye hospital with practical surgical training facilities. A hospital where eye patients receive quality eye care and Rwandan ophthalmologists receive training and acquire the necessary surgical skills. Its mission: to make high quality eye care accessible to all, hereby focussing on the poor population. The eye hospital aims to perform 21.000 consultations and 3.500 eye surgeries per year in the fifth year.
RCEH will be a self-sustainable eye hospital, through a ‘cross subsidy model’. By this principle the income generated by the high-income patients will subsidize the care for poor and underprivileged patients. Services like consultations and eye surgeries will be the same for all patients, paying or non-paying. The difference in services rendered to paying and non-paying patients will be concerning waiting rooms, waiting times and hospitalization (common ward or private rooms). Until now private hospitals in Rwanda are not accessible for underprivileged non-paying patients.
A wide range of ophthalmic examinations and treatments in the field of ophthalmology will be offered in the RCEH. Amongst them are:
- Cataract surgery and other eye surgeries
- Outreach activities such as eye screening camps and surgery camps
- Visual acuity tests and refraction services
- Optical workshop, pharmacy, low vision department
Training and fellowships
On a population of some 12 million inhabitants, Rwanda counts only 16 ophthalmologists, 50 ophthalmic clinical officers, few refractionists, no orthoptists, and about 10 opticians. There is currently no ophthalmology residency training program in Rwanda for medical doctors, and no subspecialty training. Most Rwandan ophthalmologists, who come back from their ophthalmology training abroad, do not have enough surgical skills.
Therefore RCEH wants to offer young ophthalmologists a practical surgical training before starting in their hospital. RCEH aims to become a teaching facility, sharing knowledge and skills in order to train young Rwandan ophthalmologists and eye nurses. This to ensure the sustainability of eye care services in Rwanda.
Practical fellowships will be organized for young Rwandan ophthalmologists in the following subspecialties:
- Small incision cataract surgery (SICS)
- Oculoplastic and orbital surgery
- Vitreoretinal surgery
- Paediatric ophthalmology
RCEH will also be a clinical rotation place for trainees from the Kigali Health Institute.
Phase 2: Comprehensive eye care services within the catchment area of the hospital (2018-2020)
The planned activities are:
- Organizing outreach activities: regular eye screening camps and surgery camps in remote areas where people currently have no access to eye care services
- Setting up of the referral chain in the catchment area
- Supporting ophthalmic clinical officers in the district hospitals with the basic ophthalmic equipment
- Subsidizing cataract surgeries for poor people who are unable to pay themselves