Jamaicans will continue to benefit from eye care services provided by Cuban health professionals for another six months.

This is being facilitated under an extended technical cooperation agreement between the Governments of Jamaica and Cuba.

Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, and Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica, Her Excellency Inés Fors Fernández, on Thursday (December 20), signed the documents during a ceremony at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.

The bilateral agreement, first signed in 2009, provided for the establishment of an Ophthalmology Centre to treat Jamaican and other Caribbean nationals with eye conditions and for implementation of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Programme in 2010.

On December 2015, an agreement was signed by the Governments to continue Cuba’s support to Jamaica for a further three years, prolonging the programme through December this year.

Tufton said the six-month extension provides the opportunity to ensure continuity in the provision of care as provided for under the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Programme “even as we assess current needs and determine the best course for a successor agreement”.

 “There is no question of the value that the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Programme has brought to the people of Jamaica. Operated from three principal locations – Kingston School of Nursing, National Chest Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital, patients are provided with care prior to and subsequent to surgery, along with treatment of diabetic retinopathy and anterior segment laser, in addition to cataract and pterygium. Patients also benefit from laboratory, optometry, clinical and ophthalmic services,” he said.

Dr. Tufton noted that 2,695 surgeries have been performed in this year alone. The number includes 1,253 diabetic retinopathy laser procedures; 854 cataract surgeries; 409 pterygium surgeries; and 179 anterior segment laser procedures.

“This is thanks to the excellent team of Cuban professionals with whom Jamaica has been provided over time. The programme welcomed the fourth Cuban Medical Brigade in June this year, comprised of 18 personnel,” he noted further.

“There is no question that the programme has achieved success in what it set out to do, which is to provide safe, clinically sound and cost-effective services in ophthalmology; to improve the quality of life of adults accessing the programme through the improvement of their eyesight; and to promote a healthier lifestyle in order to improve eye health,” he said.

The Cuban Ambassador, for her part, said health is a very important area of cooperation between the countries, noting that currently, there are about 291 Cuban health professionals working in four regions of Jamaica.

“I would like to express our (commitment) to continue working with Jamaica in this important sector. I think health is among the most important human rights,” she said, noting that public health is even more critical as it caters to the most vulnerable in society.

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