February 8, 2017

Eye and Dental Care

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Eye Care

Our Eye Department helps thousands of people per year to improve their vision, either through supplying eye glasses or simple eye surgery. Without our help, these people would lead incredibly difficult lives in Burma.

 

  

History and present


The Eye Care Programme began in 1995, and currently possesses supplies and expertise for treating and preventing common causes of sight impairment and blindness in this population. In 2017, MTC’s Eye Department provided over 10,000 consultations and health education: over 6,100 patients received eyeglasses; 1,624 surgeries were performed of which approximately 75% for cataract removal with intra ocular implantation; and around 900 patients received non-invasive medical treatment.

With very limited affordable quality eye care services available on the border or in most of the adjacent areas inside Burma, MTC’s Eye Care Programme is an essential service for the population on both sides of the border. Eye tests are relatively easy and cheap to administer and can detect imperfections which can also be corrected reasonably easily and cheaply with a pair of glasses. Poor eyesight can have serious detrimental consequences on one’s quality of life and the fulfilment of one’s potential, and this is especially true of school-age children.

 Treatment

The primary eye care services and vision assessments are carried out by trained medics. The surgical programme has been implemented with the help of Dr. Frank Green, an ophthalmologist who has been conducting eye surgeries on a voluntary basis at MTC from 1996 up to early 2018 (the programme is interrupted for the time being). Additionally, the eye care programme entails vision screening at migrant learning centres; and workshops for teachers to learn how to perform annual vision screenings in migrant schools, and refer students with vision problems to MTC.

The Eye Care Programme also treats eye infections and other eye diseases such as glaucoma and pterygium which would otherwise lead to severe sight impairment, sight loss or partial and complete blindness.

Challenges

The implementation and impact of the Eye Care Programme are constrained by funding gaps. Reduced financial ability has led us to scale down existing programmes and referral coverage for non-life-threatening diseases. In addition, we started encouraging patients to contribute to elective healthcare services. Although financially capable patients are partially contributing to the eye programme (e.g. for eye glasses or minor surgery), financial difficulties are still present for patients and their families who, in most cases, have to borrow money or expenses incurred in getting to the clinic. High transportation costs, the risk of arrest, and the inability of family to accompany them makes it difficult for some patients to access the clinic. These difficulties also make it hard for the clinic to carry out follow up care and assess long-term success.

 

Staff

There are 6 health workers at eye department, working 6 days a week to provide essential primary eye care service and treatment for eye infections or other eye diseases.

(Last update: 29 June 2018)

Dental Care

The Dental Clinic serves not only as a treatment space for patients with dental problems, but also promotes oral hygiene and educates patients on what kinds of foods to eat to avoid dental problems.

 

History and services

The MTC Dental Clinic opened in 2001, operating three days a week as an adjunct part of the surgery department. At first the clinic had limited resources, with just a couple of dental mirrors and tools for extraction. The surgical medics that attended dental training saw three to five patients a day.

Over the years the clinic has received technical support and help from generous volunteers, especially volunteer doctors who donated equipment and trained our medics to perform root canal treatment and advanced level care.

Today the dental clinic is an independent department that is open 6 days per week and works with a staff of 3. It has new facilities with three donated chairs and high speed pneumatic dental drills. The specially trained staff saw over 4,000 patients in 2017; of them, 96% were new cases.

Patients

For impoverished patients, it is common to delay treatment until an infection rages out of control. Patients are forced to spend their savings on one visit to the doctor in Burma, making prevention and early treatment impossible. The clinic has seen some patients whose condition became serious because of bacterial infections, such as septicaemia, due to infected teeth. This condition is preventable and that is why our staff promote dental hygiene.

Almost all the patients seeking dental care at MTC have never visited a dentist before. In addition to their primary complaint, the majority of the patients also have cavities they are not aware of. The problem is that most patients have little education and do not understand the importance of oral hygiene.

Dental care is as important as the care for other diseases as dental issues could entail not only severe pains but also could cause osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone, with risk of septicaemia.

Education

The staff know that prevention is the best treatment, and they try to improve oral health through activities for children, teaching them how to brush their teeth and providing oral health education to adults. Through the school health programme, which reaches 34 migrant schools, our Community Health team provides education on dental care based upon the school’s request. The clinic diagnoses many cases of oral cancer, but due to the lack of resources staff can only help with counselling and provision of pain medication.

Challenges

The dental department has been facing a shortage of resources mainly because of limited funding. The clinic often stands at crossroads to prioritise between life-threatening disease treatment and disease prevention, such as dental care although both of them never should be neglected.

(Last update: 23 August 2018)

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