The Barbados Kiwanis Club has vowed to make eye care more accessible for all its island residents.
By Wendy Rose Gould
The island life provides many joys — balmy weather, beautiful views and a certain air of tranquility. Amid the pleasures, though, are some obstacles. In Barbados, for example, only two hospitals serve the 166-square-mile island, which has a population of about 290,000.
One of those hospitals is private; the other, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, is public and serves the majority of Barbados’ residents. Though Barbados’ healthcare system is highly regarded, the added complication of a global pandemic led to some barriers to treatment.
After meeting with a corneal specialist from the hospital in June 2020, the Barbados Kiwanis Club realized Queen Elizabeth’s eye clinic had a great need for assistance.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was accessible for emergencies only,” says St. Clair Phillips, immediate past president of the Barbados South Kiwanis Club. “Persons who had appointments with the eye clinic were severely impacted by cancellations or a request to reschedule their appointments. This also created a backlog for patients to have their immediate needs met.”
Those eye appointments are crucial, especially for those who are more vulnerable or high risk and can benefit from early interventions. Vision loss can severely impact both independence and confidence. Eye tests are also important — and mandatory — for children in grade school.
Hospital staff ultimately developed a game plan to expand their eye care services via digital appointments held at ‘polyclinics’ throughout the island. To pull it off, they needed computers to digitize and transmit medical records to and from the hospital, as well as specialized retinal cameras.
Determined to help, club members raised money to fund two computers, which cost Bds$1,500 (US$750) each. They continue to raise additional donations to secure more computers and the costly retinal cameras.
Even beyond the pandemic, this equipment will prove monumentally helpful for all of the island’s residents. Having easier access to an eye clinic means more people will be tested and that important interventions will be made earlier before diseases can progress.
The campaign also is raising the club’s profile, already resulting in media coverage on Barbados television stations and in both electronic and print newspapers.
Says St. Clair Phillips, “This project provided much visibility for the Kiwanis movement in Barbados and, by extension, worldwide.”
This story originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.