Reducing the barriers to the uptake of cataract surgical services in a tertiary hospital
Background: Cataract is a major cause of avoidable blindness and is
responsible for about 50% of global blindness.
Objective: To determine the effect of reducing barriers to the uptake of cataract surgical services at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria.
Study Design and Methods: A comparative retrospective study of the number of cataract surgeries performed from January 2005 to December 2008 was carried out. A joint partnership between the Ophthalmology Department, the hospital management and a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) was established to tackle the barriers of awareness, access and high cost of surgery to the uptake of cataract surgery from January 2005. The Ophthalmology Department and hospital management agreed to perform cataract surgeries free for all cataract patients while the NGO provided all the consumables required. The number of cataract surgeries performed was obtained from the theatre records and the data obtained analysed for the number of surgeries done per year.
Results: The total number of cataract surgeries performed as seventy five (75), one hundred and twenty nine (129), one hundred and six (106) and three hundred and eighty-three (383) for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively showing a significant increase in the year 2008. Poor awareness, the bureaucracy of the referral system and high cost of surgery were identified as barriers to the uptake of cataract surgical services at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. Publicity through the mass media, direct presentation of patients to the eye clinic for screening and providing cataract services free to all patients were methods used to overcome these barriers. Conclusion: Cataract surgical output can be increased by concerted effort and joint partnership among stakeholders in the eye care sector by recognising and reducing the barriers to the uptake of cataract surgical services.
Keywords: barriers, cataract, surgical services, tertiary hospital