The first eye clinic started in one small room in the main building of SDA Cooper Hospital in 1999. Gradually it grew in size, taking over several rooms, until it really needed it’s own building. Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM), from Wurzburg Germany, undertook the building of a new eye center in 2004 (a four-building complex with operating rooms, inpatient wards, administration building, and outpatient clinic). They also donated 4 vehicles (currently used for all hospital business and employee transportation). The staff training sponsored by CBM included an ophthalmologist, cataract surgeon, 3 ophthalmic nurses, 1 eye drop technician (mixes the medications), 2 optical technicians/refractionists, and 1 eye equipment technician.
Since opening, the Eye Hospital has provided and average of 300-500 cataract surgeries (with intraocular lenses) and 30-50 other non-cataract surgical cases per month. With financial support of CBM, the Eye Hospital staff was able to offer free medical and surgical eye care for poor rural and village communities covering several counties (Montserrado, Gbarpolu, Rivercess, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Margibi, and Cape Mount).
Unfortunately, in 2009 CBM drastically and progressively scaled down their involvement with the Eye Hospital and its outreach activities. By 2011, only a small quantity of medical supplies was donated by CBM. The outreach activities have since been limited to 2 counties due to lack of financial support; yearly trips are still attempted when resources allow.
The Later Days Saints Medical Mission has donated consumables, equipment, and instruments on several occasions. Dr. Joseph Hatch and a team from the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City visited in February 2014, providing materials and specialized care. During the recent Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015, ADRA (Adventist Disaster Relief Agency), Global Medic, AHI (Adventist Health International), IMC (International Medical Corps), and others provided much needed support in the form of protective equipment, durable tents, screening protocols, and financial assistance.
As half of the trained staff have moved to other countries in the past 10 years, the trained ophthalmologic services are being provided by Dr. Sonii, the sole remaining ophthalmologist and surgeon, one trained ophthalmic nurse, and one nurse-in-training. The need for qualified care is growing in the country, given the long term complications such as uveitis and chronic eye inflammation seen in Ebola survivors as well as other types of infections, the acute treatment needed in traumatic injuries, and the importance of corrective lenses for daily life.
In order to continue to provide quality care at the hospital and in outreach, at least one cataract surgeon, another ophthalmologist, and more ophthalmic nurses are needed. Equipment needs include an optical shop edger, lens cutter/diamond knife, glazer, operating microscope, and static slit lamp. A reliable, consistent supplier of shop materials and eye drop production materials are also imperative to the continuation of services.