Solomons eye health gets NZ help

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 12:20 10/06/2014
Fred Hollows
Peter Solness
DR SIGHT: Kiwi ophthalmologist Fred Hollows.

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New Zealand will fund a Solomon Islands eye hospital that is expected to restore the sight of 1900 people in its first year and to test another 11,000.

The Fred Hollows Foundation in New Zealand will build the $3.8 million hospital in Honiara.

The hospital will get 94 per cent of its power from solar energy.

"This investment by the New Zealand Government will allow thousands of people to receive quality eye care in the decades to come," foundation executive director Andrew Bell said.

He said the foundation had trained eye doctors in the Solomons.

"Now with this centre they will be able to fully utilise their skills to help even more people in need," he said.

New Zealand-born Hollows, who died in 1993, was an ophthalmologist who became known for his work in restoring eyesight for thousands of people in Australia and many other countries.

Bell said the new centre would work to realise the dream of a world free from avoidable blindness.

"Our patients in the developing world are deserving of the same quality eye care we expect here in New Zealand," he said.

"To provide these services, our eye doctors and nurses require world-class facilities such as this health centre."

The new hospital would show that second-hand equipment and makeshift clinics were not good enough to help Solomon Islanders who were needlessly blind.

It would also play a role across the Pacific supporting eye nurse graduates and provide additional training facilities, Bell said.

The centre was designed by award-winning New Zealand architect Pete Bossley.

Power in the Solomon Islands is five times more expensive than in New Zealand, with Honiara suffering up to 10 power cuts each day.

The hospital will be built from New Zealand pine. The timber rating is such that the clinic is expected to have a 50-year lifespan.

Construction will begin this month and the hospital is likely to open early next year.

While funds and expertise for the building come from New Zealand, the centre will be run by the Ministry of Health in Honiara as part of National Referral Hospital.

The centre will increase capacity from 30 to 60 outpatients a day and from 10 to 40 surgeries a week in its first year.

It will increase the number of eye surgeries across the Pacific region by at least 30 per cent.

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