The Discipline of Optometry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has reinforced a partnership agreement with the Islamic Medical Association (IMA) in a recent meeting held at the Westville campus. A collaboration agreement was signed with UKZN’s Optometry Discipline also presenting the Islamic Medical Association with a certificate of appreciation given the long standing funding support by IMA towards providing eye care solutions for the indigent through UKZN’s Optometry clinic.
For the past five years the Islamic Medical Association has funded specialised hard contact lenses for patients with keratoconus and other significant vision problems who cannot afford this type of correction. ‘Our aim is to improve vision and quality of life for indigent patients, particularly those from rural communities’ said Ms Sabera Asmal, the Chairperson of the Islamic Medical Association in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Optometry clinic offers full vision care services including eye examinations, provision of spectacles and contact lenses, paediatric vision and binocular vision therapy and low vision services which focuses on partially-sighted patients.
‘With IMA channelling funding through our UKZN Eye Clinic, there has been immediate benefit of improved vision, followed by improved quality of life, extended to secondary benefits such as increased opportunities for social and economic advancement through their improved visual abilities. If people can see, they are enabled to work and have fulfilling social lives. This partnership has made a remarkable impact already. Other opportunities for support and collaboration will still be explored further.’ expressed Dr Diane van Staden, Academic Leader at UKZN’s Optometry discipline.
IMA has offered to sponsor the cost of contact lenses for up to 20 indigent keratoconic patients who require hard lenses and are seen in the UKZN Optometry clinic in 2017. In addition, IMA has agreed to fund the provision of 20 pairs of spectacles and 10 low vision devices for indigent paediatric and visually impaired patients respectively who cannot afford them.
‘Eye care services have become more affordable and accessible to indigent communities in recent years, but hard contact lenses in particular are a specialty service not offered by many practitioners in the private sector and are not available at all in public sector hospitals. IMA’s funding of these lenses will go a long way towards assisting patients who cannot afford such,’ said Miss Naimah Ebrahim Khan, a contact lens Lecturer at UKZN’s Discipline of Optometry.
In the collaboration firming meeting between IMA and UKZN’s Optometry Discipline, the need to workshop Eye Clinic staff on the selection criteria for patients who would benefit in the 2017 Keratoconus project was discussed and emphasised at length. Patients who are identified as needing correction and cannot come up with the funds will undergo a basic socioeconomic screening interview. A basic means test will include looking at the number of people living in the household, number of people employed in the household and the total household income. Thereafter, identified patients will be expected to contribute a percentage of the cost of the devices, the balance of which will be covered by the IMA.
The Discipline of Optometry expressed the value of its association with stakeholders such as the IMA and will continue to strengthen partnerships of this nature for the benefits of patients in need.