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23.10.2008 Health

Health ministry wants duty on equipment to treat glaucoma waived

By gna

The Ministry of Heath on Tuesday said it was negotiating with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to waive

duties on Glaucoma products and equipment for surgery and laser operations.

In a speech read on his behalf at the launch of Glaucoma Week in Accra, Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd), noted that when negotiations were successful, these surgeries would become alternatives to the usage of medication and further lower the intra ocular pressure sufficiently.

The Glaucoma Week on the theme; “Glaucoma, You Can do Something About It” is to promote awareness on the disease through discussion programmes on TV and radio, visits to institutions and churches and free eye screening among others.

Glaucoma exists when the intra ocular pressure has been raised over a period causing damage to the optic nerve with corresponding loss of visual function. Untreated glaucoma results in blindness because of the irreversible damage it causes.

He said it was gratifying to note that facilities and expertise existed in Ghana and that most people could cope with their condition.

The Health Minister said the overall aim of the National Eye Health Programme taken from the Global Initiative VISION 2020 - The Right to Sight - was to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020.

The main component of the framework was set to ensure the system where eye health services are provided in an integrated manner at the sub-district and community level.

The ministry, he said, had to improve its budgetary allocation for eye care diseases prevention and that a portion would go to the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) for advocacy and awareness creation activities.

The ministry announced a 50,000 Ghana Cedis package to support the setting up of a secretariat for the association.

Dr Oscar Debrah, Head, National Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service, said the disease was “a silent thief of sight” and the second cause of blindness after cataract.

He said Africa had 37 million out of the 161 million affected people worldwide and with over 500,000 patients in Ghana.

Dr Debrah observed that it affected people 40 years and above but added that it was hereditary meaning that children could also be affected.

He said 15 per cent of blind cases could be prevented and 20 per cent partially treatable. Glaucoma, like most diseases, was linked to lack of awareness, poverty, lack of education and employment.

Dr Debrah urged Ghanaians to go for screening, while those diagnosed should take their medication seriously.

The National President of the Association, Mr Harrison Abutiate, said the association had screened over 12,600 patients over the past 16 years of its existence in some parts of the country and this year, a free screening exercise would be held at Kasoa in the Central Region on October 25.

He said glaucoma drugs were very expensive ranging from 30 to 40 Ghana cedis per month depending on the severity of the condition while surgical and laser treatment cost ranges from 150 to 450 Ghana cedis.

Early detection, screening and treatment, he said, had become more urgent than before to prevent irreversible loss of sight.

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