Monday, August 30, 2010

Yet another Rambam hospital success

In the western world, cataract operations are considered routine procedures. In Israel alone, some 40,000 such operations are performed yearly. Just a few hours’ flight from here, however, thousands of people suffer from cataracts and blindness. Two Rambam ophthalmologists, returned from a mission to Yaounde, capital of the Republic of Cameroon in Africa, where they restored vision to tens of patients, and instructed local medical teams performing the same procedures.

The mission was sponsored by MASHAV, the Center for International Cooperation of Israel’s foreign ministry. For two weeks, the doctors diagnosed and operated on patients with different eye ailments in the city’s main medical center, Centre H'ospitalier D'Essos. Some of the operations were performed using a phacoemulsifiaction machine, a device for cataract procedures that was brought specially from Israel for the mission. The Israeli doctors also supervised local teams in treating glaucoma patients by laser.

News of the Israeli doctors’ arrival drew patients seeking treatment and advice. Hospitals in Cameroon attend only to insured or paying patients and those without adequate means remain untreated. During their short stay, Drs. Berger and Socea conducted 55 cataract and glaucoma operations primarily for patients in need , ranging in age from five to over 80. Putting this in perspective, the local department carries out only 100 operations yearly.

The procedures were performed with help of the hospital’s staff, along with teams from other cities who arrived to take part in the operation and to learn from the Israeli doctors.

“One of the most moving cases involved a 15-year old boy,” recalls Dr. Berger. “At a young age, this boy had received treatment that left him with cataracts in both eyes and with reversible blindness. We operated on his eyes and he recovered his sight.” Another case involved an elderly man who had been blinded in both eyes as the result of traditional methods of cataract surgery . The RHCC doctors also succeeded in restoring his vision. “This is an ailment that can be treated effectively, ” says Dr. Berger. “Only the absence of proper diagnosis and treatment allows so many people to remain blind.”

The farewell ceremony for the Rambam doctors took place in the presence of Israel’s ambassador to Cameroon, the director and deputy-director of Cameroon’s social security program (CNPS) ,representatives of the Israel foreign ministry, hospital staff and treated patients.

The Department of Ophthalmology, under the direction of Prof. Benjamin Miller, has a tradition of assistance in Africa. “In Israel, medical care is taken for granted, but in Africa you feel you are helping people who live with great difficulties. The results are quick and exciting,” says Dr. Berger. “The operations and guidance we provided are a contribution of Israel to Cameroon. This is part of a long-term, successful Israeli initiative in developing countries, especially Africa.”

For a video presentation see


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