Portland Optometrist Annie Bacon – Eye Department eye care and eyewear Portland, Oregon
Eye Care from Portland to Cambodia: Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia supported by SEVA Foundation.
The flight from Portland, Oregon to Seoul, South Korea was long and uneventful. When we got to Seoul, we were shepherded through a security checkpoint, rushed onto a train and like a snowball rolling down hill, we found ourselves in a mad rush to catch our connection. KoreanAir was kind enough to delay the connecting flight for a few minutes. After a quick 5 hour flight, we landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia and were smothered by a blanket of dense humidity. “Welcome to Cambodia. Go stand in that line,” said a young man in a uniform pointing towards a throng of people.
After settling in, we debriefed with the SEVA team and headed off to the Angkor Hospital for Children where we met Dr. Vuthy Sar, the Surgical Director at AHC. The Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) is a full scope hospital providing inpatient and outpatient services, surgery, radiology, pharmacy as well as an intensive care unit. The SEVA Foundation supports AHC through grant funding, education and partnership programs. The SEVA Foundation has been instrumental in the growth in surgery rate of the AHC eye unit through coordinated processes, education and training. AHC was the most state of the art facility that we visited during our time in Cambodia.
Many patients travel great distances to seek treatment. AHC is able to provide travel cost assistance to patients who need it. Unfortunately, the cost to travel can be a major barrier for many families. It is currently harvest season and many families cannot afford the cost to travel or to have anyone missing from the harvest work, let alone a parent to travel with the child.
In talking with Dr. Vuthy Sar, we learned about the challenges he faces in providing care as well as the challenges his patients face in seeking his care. Dr. Vuthy Sar sees hundreds of patients per week treating a variety of ailments. The AHC Eye Clinic treats conditions including cataracts, conjunctivitis, ptosis, strabismus, refractive error, blunt eye trauma and penetrating corneal injuries. Currently, Angkor Hospital for Children is able to provide free eyeglasses to children. The AHC operates on a sliding fee scale where those who need free care are able to receive it and those who can afford care are asked to contribute. This has allowed the hospital to improve their financial condition and to become a self-sustaining program. In addition to consultations and treatments, the Operating Theater is used for more serious cases. One of the major barriers to eye health care in Cambodia is the cost, which ranges from US$150-$500 in a private clinic, and US$20-$80 in a public hospital. The AHC Operating Theater was built in 2002 and is treating roughly 200 eye patients per month. Doctors are scarce in Cambodia so the need for trained and educated healthcare workers is significant. This is a major hurdle in providing broad based comprehensive care. In 2005 AHC became Cambodia’s first teaching hospital.
This Ptosis patient was a bit nervous at first but settled down and was able to be scheduled for surgery in the following days. We scrubbed into the OR and stood alongside Dr. Vuthy Sar as he performed a blepharoplasty, to correct the ptosis in an older patient. Ptosis, also known as “droopy lid” is when the upper eye lid droops too low and obscures vision. As shown in the photo, Dr. Sar tightened the levator muscles and elevated the eyelid to permit a full field of vision and to achieve symmetry with the opposite upper eyelid. Dr. Sar gave a play by play description and even took a phone call during the procedure; all without missing a beat.