VOSO helps out in Tonga

This year, a small but experienced VOSO team travelled to Tonga. Led by Dr Andrew Riley, the team included optometrists John Tarbutt and myself and Dr John-Paul Blanc. We were ably assisted by Tongan Pacific Eye Institute (PEI)-trained Dr Duke Mataka and his capable team of eye health staff.

We started with a day clinic in Nuku'alofa, Tonga's capital, which presented some challenging cases to refract and some interesting pathology for the ophthalmologists. Next was Ha'apai, a small group of islands about 30 minutes flight from Nuku'alofa which hadn’t had an eye team visit for more than four years. The surgeons performed laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy, screened for cataract and pterygium and there was a lot of refraction. We were pleased to discover Ha'apai will have its own PEI-trained eye nurse by the end of the year. The final stop was Vava'u, about an hour flight from the capital and the main tourist island - an ideal destination if you want to swim with whales. We saw many diabetic patients and were kept busy screening and refracting.

Lions Papakura kindly donated 1000 glasses and sunglasses for this trip and we’re planning on sending another shipment of glasses to Nuku'alofa before the end of the year. Dr Mataka was also very grateful for the surgical supplies provided by VOSO and for the opportunity to work alongside other experienced surgeons.

Tonga is building a strong and self-reliant eye team and enquired if VOSO could set up a glazing lab in Nuku'alofa as the eye nurses want to help patients with astigmatism, early keratoconus and anisometropia. If you can help, please contact me at vosocharity@gmail.com


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