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May 29, 2003

New eye surgery now available in Belize

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One of the most radical changes in Belizean life over the last decade has come in the field of medical care. While there are many advanced procedures, which remain unavailable here, that number appears to shrink every week. Patrick Jones reports on the latest developments.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Lack of technology and expertise has seriously hampered the level of care available to people in need of eye surgery. But one enterprising ophthalmologist is about to change all that with the acquisition of this Accurus 800 CF, a quarter million dollar machine that will allow Belizeans, for the first time to undergo specialised retinal surgery in country.

Dr. David Hoy, Ophthalmologist, Hoy Eye Centre

“It will be vitrectomy, which is removal of vitreous and removing vitreous with bleeding in it, and we’re looking mostly for patients that are diabetics.”

With high incidences of diabetes among our population, Dr. David Hoy says more Belizeans will be able to get sight saving treatment for a fraction of what it would cost for that same treatment in Guatemala or Mexico. Apart from surgery to stop bleeding in the back of the eye, the new machine will make it easier to remove cataracts, as well as other minor procedures. This weekend however, the emphasis will be on treating people with diabetic complications.

Dr. David Hoy

“Bleeding in the back of the eye from diabetes is very common. In fact, the back of the eye is exactly where it’s going to start with diabetics. So again, looking at diabetes only from an eye point of view is not really the way it should be. We work with diabetics from a systemic point of view, meaning that we’ll be working with the internists, we’ll be working with the nephrologist, taking care of kidney and also working with the circulation of the patients. So we are of great help to the internists, because when we start to see changes on the retina, it is normally an indication that things are not going well with that diabetic patient.”

During the procedure, the patient is normally put under local anaesthesia and remains alert. This weekend’s surgeries will be performed by well-known retinologist Doctor Miriam Rojas, from the Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City, who will literally go inside the patient’s eye to assess what’s wrong and take corrective measures.

Dr. David Hoy

“We’re going to go inside the eye from three holes. One taking, in water to maintain the globe, another taking in a light source and another one taking in the machine to remove the vitreous, which is a vitreous, which will probably have blood in it, because it has a vitreous bleed. So there are three holes that we normally make.”

Although there are a lot of people singing up to see the visiting retinologist, Dr. Hoy says the majority of them will not need major surgery to correct problems with their eyes.

Dr. David Hoy

“Many of them might not need this high level of technology surgery. They might have initial bleeding on the retina and might only need laser surgery, which we also do here. Some might have one eye that is totally blind and patients want sometimes not only a second and third, but sometimes a fourth opinion on what exactly should I do. And sometimes having an opinion from an expert on this area, the patient feels better about making a decision.”

While there are currently no doctors in Belize who can do the vitrectomy surgery, Dr.Hoy and other ophthalmologists are hoping that local doctors will soon gain enough experience to become proficient in this area.

Dr. David Hoy

“This level of technology needs somebody that is doing this type of surgery everyday. We’re not dealing with the simple laser surgery that we can do here in Belize, we’re dealing with delicate surgeries that if you’re not in the best of hands or in the best of hands with the most experience, you don’t want to be doing it. And there is nobody in Belize that has the experience or has been doing this surgery in the last five years to carry on this type of surgery. However, that I am not saying will not be the case in the future.”

Hopefully that future starts this weekend as Dr. Hoy and his colleagues begin to acquire the skills they will need to make the future look a lot better for many Belizeans. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Doctor Miriam Rojas will arrive in the country on Friday and will be seeing patients at the Hoy Eye Centre at the corner of St. Thomas and St. Joseph’s Streets the same day and on Saturday. Consultations are by appointments only. Doctor Hoy says that so far four of the specialized surgeries are scheduled for this weekend.

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