The West African Gas Pipeline Company limited (WAPCo), as part of its annual specialised medical care, has provided free eye screening to over 500 residents in Kpone and Tema Manhean in the Greater Accra Region.

The move which was in collaboration with eye specialists from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital sought to fill in the gap for the high demand by members of the host communities.

Some beneficiaries received medicated glasses, eye-drops among others, while those with a more severe condition needing further attention were referred to the Tema General Hospital and the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

The Eye Specialist in charge of the outreach programme, Dr Gladys Fordjour said some of the cases that came up included cataract, which leads to a decrease in vision.

“It often develops slowly and could affect one or both eyes,” she said.

She added that other diagnoses were refractive errors, allergies and few cases of glaucoma.

“I must say these were pretty serious cases that need further attention,” she noted.

Dr Fordjour also noted that the screening exercise instituted by WAPCo was timely, “as some of the cases that came to us here were quite serious and we have taken care of them and referred them to Tema General and Korle-Bu Teaching hospitals for further care.”

“I must say that we have strongly advised those we have referred to make sure they visit the hospital since failure to do that could lead to blindness, while we also advise others on proper eye care”, she said.

According to the Eye Specialist, most of the health facilities in the communities do not have specialised eye services, thus making WAPCo’s outreach programme very important.

She said what is important now is to ensure many of the patients living in the areas remote from specialist services make it a point to regularly visit the facilities such as Tema General and Korle-Bu Teaching hospitals for checkups.

An opinion leader of one of the beneficiary communities, William W. Atiapah said the medical outreach was critical due to the close proximity of the area to industrial activities in Tema which mostly generate a lot of smoke and dust, coupled with fish processing that also emits smoke.

“We have a health facility here, but these are specialised services that are not readily available here for the people in the community to access. For eye-care we rely on the benevolence of companies such as WAPCo”, he said.

He expressed the hope that other industries within the Tema-Kpone industrial enclave would in future consider specialised medical services for the people within their catchment area.

Mr Atiapah also encouraged those referred to Tema General and Korle-Bu Teaching hospitals to treat their situations as urgent and to all others the need to abide by the good counsel of the specialists.

The External Relations Manager of WAPCo, Mark K. Mensah, said WAPCo identified the medical outreach as a critical intervention, which was agreed upon through consultations with members of the beneficiary communities.

The communities selected have some appreciable health care facilities but lack specialised services such as optometry, even though poor eyesight and related conditions are common.

“We identified the eye problem as a challenge during one of our interactions with the schools and realised that some students and pupils are always called to be seated in front. Our probe revealed that they cannot see from afar,” he said.

He said the sad aspect is that the children who had eye problems were unaware of their conditions, a situation that manifests among some adults in the communities.

Mr Mensah also expressed concern about the emerging cases of glaucoma, noting that “the sad part of glaucoma is that it does not show any symptoms until it’s too late, which has resulted in many losing their sight.”

“Therefore realising that there are varied eye problems in our host communities with no specialist services, we, after broad consultations, agreed with the people to provide annual eye care for them and it has helped greatly,” he stated.

He said the company, apart from the medical care in Greater Accra, Community Centre at Aboadze, built a clinic and maternity facility for a community in Tema, a school and teachers’ quarters for Kpone as well as instituted a scholarship programme for brilliant but needy children.

“We have support also extended to students pursuing various programmes in the universities and those who want to go into vocational training,” he said.

“WAPCo designed a scheme called Community Youth Enterprise Scheme (CYES) to support them in that direction, and support with tools to start a business”, he added.

Apart from the Kpone and Tema Manhean engagements, he said: “We will also extend it to other five communities and their surroundings in the Shama District of the Western Region.”