Human Vision Is Her Vision, Doctor Gladys Talks Eye Care Opportunities, HIHA Awards And Sector Improvements.

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By Eddie Ssemakula

How would you describe your biggest achievement as a medical practitioner up to date?

Every eye that wasn’t seeing before and now can, courtesy of our intervention is an impact worth more than a thousand words, however, being a part of the team that has seen eye care service delivery improve in the Karamoja subregion is by far my biggest achievement.

What did your nomination and win in the HIHA awards last year mean to you, how has it inspired your work?

This being my second nomination proved that the world was watching my work. That the community cares and believes in my push. And because we thrive in a world of togetherness and interdependence, this award means a lot to me, most especially because a decision I took five years ago to serve a remote community that had never had an eye doctor before is now impacting not just that community but people far and wide. This has challenged me to do much more.

What Opportunities and challenges exist in the Ugandan eye specialist space and how can key players rethink around them?

Cornea transplants is an area that needs to be taken up as soon as tomorrow but given the limitations in funding for health care in general, it has been difficult for it to kick start. There is therefore need to increase the budget allocation to the health sector to make this possible.   Secondly, we still do not have enough ophthalmologists per million population as recommended by WHO to meet the basic eye care needs.

Some regional referral hospitals do not have an ophthalmologist. Third, numerous opportunities for subspecialisation in areas of cornea, medical and surgical retina, paediatric ophthalmology, neuroophthalmology, Glaucoma and oculoplastic exist and I would love to see general ophthalmologists taking themup. Our health system structure however needs to start recognizing such subspecialists and promote them appropriately as motivation.

How would you describe the current state of Uganda in her strides in pushing back against banal eye diseases, what should we be learning and unlearning in this trajectory or lack thereof?

I believe that strides have been made as far as human resources, equipment, medicines and suppliesare concerned but it is not enough. We should shift our focus as a country from donor dependencyfor health financing which is not sustainable and take hold of every detail of our eye care system. Kickstarting the national health insurance scheme will be a good idea. I believe this will enable the inclusion ofmore eye drops and consumables in the essential medical supply list and the facilitation of equipment and human resources for eye health at the primary health facilities which in turn will strengthen service delivery.

 

Dr Gladys won the Doctor of the Year award in the 2023 edition, she has gained international repute serving vulnerable communities of Moroto, in north Eastern Uganda.

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