Looking to care for the visually impaired

The Life Healthcare Cataract Outreach programme brings critical eyecare services to patients in peri-urban and rural areas

The Life Healthcare Cataract Outreach programme brings critical eyecare services to patients in peri-urban and rural areas

The Life Healthcare Group has a committed corporate social investment strategy (CSI) that is focused on social upliftment community development. The company started the Life Healthcare Foundation in 2007 as a way of channelling the group’s CSI initiatives towards programmes that are relevant. One of these initiatives is the Life Healthcare Cataract Outreach programme that has been running since 2006, bringing critical eyecare services to patients in peri-urban and rural areas.

“We have had an ongoing relationship with the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) since 2006 when we started to sponsor our mobile eye care clinics,” says Ansuyiah Padayachee, the manager of community and external affairs. “These mobile clinics are fully fitted with mobile ophthalmology equipment that’s designed to bring much needed eye care services, especially cataract surgery and low-vision testing, to rural and peri-urban areas.”

The long patient backlogs in these areas means that the mobile clinics have filled a much-needed gap and helped numerous patients overcome debilitating eye conditions. To date, the clinics have managed 55 000 screenings, detected 1 672 glaucoma, which resulted in 9 000 medical referrals, issued 14 000 pairs of spectacles, and undertaken 15 000 cataract surgeries. To further the good work and to ensure even more patients receive this critical care, the Life Healthcare Group sponsored a third fully-fitted mobile clinic in August 2018.

“We also donated R12-million towards the training of visually impaired people at SANCB’s Optima College,” adds Padayachee. “The college provides vocational and life skills training, accredited by the services Seta at a NQF Level 2, for 120 visually impaired students a year. The goal is to empower visually impaired youth by giving them the technical skills they need to enhance their job seeking opportunities.”

The courses on offer from Optima College include: introduction to computers, contact centre and support, business administration services, and Braille literacy. Students receive a monthly stipend for the duration of the course and, included in the donation from Life Health, is provision for board and lodging for about 60 students who come in from outside Gauteng.

“The strong relationship with SANCB and the mobile clinics and the college are all closely aligned to our CSI principles and goals,” says Padayachee. “The mobile clinics have reached areas that have remain under serviced and they are changing lives, every day.”