Shortage of specialists at eye hospitals

WC health dept. will employ more specialists and nurses in eye hospitals around the province.

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha addresses the media on 21 August 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Health Department said on Tuesday it aims to rectify a shortage of nurses and specialists working at the province's eye hospitals.

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha spoke to the South African Optometric Association (SAOA) about the staff shortages in Goodwood on Tuesday night.

R38 million of the provincial health budget is spent on eye care every year.

The Eerste River Hospital averages 2,600 cataract operations per year.

Botha said he hopes vacancies can be filled to address the increasing need for eye care.

"Currently, we have 12 nurses per 100,000. We hope to increase that to 40. We have no medical officers per 250,000 for this programme specifically, we hope to employ 16."

He said eliminating avoidable blindness and enhancing the department's vision 20-20 programme are some of the department's strategies.

"We have increased the budget to R38 million which we will utilise for screening and retraction at R15 million, cataracts surgeries will be R17,4 million of that. In general, this is a huge increase compared to what we've had in the past."