Marin General Hospital Donates Eye Disease Diagnostic Tool to Nepal Village
GREENBRAE, Calif., November 17, 2008 - A diagnostic tool that helped fight eye disease in Marin County for 15 years will be carried by Sherpa porters to a new home and a new mission – saving the eyesight of the inhabitants of a remote village in Nepal.
Marin General Hospital’s Emergency Department donated the machine, a slit lamp biomicroscope, to Berkeley’s Seva Foundation, which will ship it to Nepal. There it will be carried for three or four days by Sherpa porters to an isolated village in western Nepal.
The machine will become the centerpiece of a new eye clinic, serving remote areas that have never had modern eye care.
"This slit lamp is still in very good shape and works well," said Jim Dietz, MD, chair of MGH's Department of Emergency Medicine. "We recently bought an updated slit lamp through the generosity of our philanthropic community. After (unsuccessfully) trying to find a local organization that could use our old slit lamp, we are very happy to be able to donate this fine tool to the cause of improving vision care in Nepal."
The slit lamp is a microscope combined with a high-intensity light source that allows the front and back of the eyeball to be examined. It is used to test for the presence of such serious eye diseases and conditions as cataract, macular degeneration, retinal detachment and retinitis pigmentosa.
On hand at MGH’s ED to accept the donation were Chundak Tenzing, MD, who directs the Seva Foundation’s Sight Program, and Sailesh Kumar Mishra, program director of Nepal’s National Society for Comprehensive Eye Care.
Dr. Tenzing explained that vision care is still lacking in remote parts of Nepal, and as a result many people suffer blindness that could be prevented or cured with proper care. Seva has been able to establish clinics that now serve people who have never had access to eye care services before. Services include surgery to restore sight to those suffering cataract blindness.
The slit lamp is the most expensive diagnostic tool in the typical vision clinic; a high-quality lamp like the one donated by MGH would cost around $10,000, putting it out of reach of most clinics in Nepal.
The MGH slit lamp will be taken to one of two remote villages, Achaam or Darchula. There, in a rented building or as part of a larger, government-run medical clinic, trained ophthalmic assistants will employ it to examine local residents. Those found to suffer eye conditions such as cataract will be instructed to return to the clinic later, and a surgery team will be dispatched to the clinic by air or overland to perform the surgery.
Clinic personnel can examine 20 to 25 patients per day, who pay the equivalent of 25 cents each for the service. In this way each clinic covers about 40 percent of its budget, and eventually aims to become self-sufficient – a primary goal in all of Seva’s work.
For its journey to its new home, the slit lamp will be packed into a padded suitcase. The wheeled table that the machine rested on at MGH will not be taken as it is too bulky. Dr. Tenzing said Nepalese craftspeople will make a support table for the slit lamp.
“We really appreciate this generous gift from Marin General,” said Dr. Tenzing. “This will greatly enhance our ability to prevent and cure blindness for the people of Nepal.”
For more information about Seva Foundation, please visit www.seva.org.
About Marin General Hospital
Marin General Hospital opened in May 1952 in Greenbrae, CA, and is the largest acute care hospital in Marin County. It is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. MGH provides primary and secondary levels of care in addition to the Marin Cancer Institute and the Marin Heart Institute. Services include a Level III Trauma Center and a full complement of acute care and ancillary services such as neonatal intensive care, pediatrics, a family birth center, adult psychiatric units, and cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories.
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