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February 2, 2003 | General News

Over 20% of optometrists are quack - Eye specialists


Experts in the eye-care service have expressed serious concern about the influx of quack optometrists who are causing havoc in the field and damaging the eyes of unsuspecting patients.

The experts said there are indications of soaring cases of such people straying into the practice of ophthalmology and causing irreparable damages to the eyes of unsuspecting citizens. At least 20 per cent of optometrists in Ghana are quacks, they added.

Speaking with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, Mr Julius Darko, President of the Ghana Optometrists Association (GOA), called on the government to expedite action on the draft Optometry Bill, which seeks to empower the Association to regulate the practice. The draft legislation is currently before cabinet.

"When the law comes into force, it will be binding on all practitioners and will also give us the legal backing to enforce our code of ethics, thereby checking the activities of such quacks," Mr Darko said.

He expressed regret that the GOA, founded in 1964, remained the only sensitive professional body without a legal regulatory body.

Mr Darko said the association knows about fake optometric practices but has no legal authority as at now to clamp on such people.

The quacks are either not professionals and therefore do not have the basic qualifications, or go beyond their scope of operation just for economic gains.

"We're aware of the dangers they pose to society, but again our hands are tied in the absence of a legal regulatory body to enforce the code of conduct and ethics," Mr Darko said, and expressed optimism that the Bill would be enacted soon.

GNA investigations have revealed alarming reports of improper eye care services by some practitioners leading to severe damage, and in many cases loss of sight.

A female tutor at the Tema Secondary School told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that on January 24, her eyes were severely damaged by an optician employee of an optical firm in Accra where she had gone for refraction.

She said after testing the eyes, the duty optician, one Mr Yawson, decided to check her eye pressure by administering a drug on the eye. The drug was found to be improper and has led to serious damage to her eyes.

The lady, who had walked on her own to the shop, said she had to be aided home because she could not see at all.

She was subsequently rushed to the Ophthalmology Department at the 37 Military Hospital, where it was detected that Mr Yawson committed a "serious" error.

Yawson admitted the error in an interview with the GNA, accepting responsibility for the lady's predicament. He apologized and pledged to bear all cost on efforts to save the lady's sight.

His employers have also apologized and said they were consulting the Optometrist Association over what action they should take against him.

They held that he was employed to do refractions only and not to treat or administer drugs on people's eyes. "The rules of engagements clearly specify that he should refer all other cases to an ophthalmologist."

Five specialists at the military hospital told the GNA that they had dealt with scores of such cases, trying to reverse errors resulting from such illegitimate practices.

They expressed concern about the numerous optical shops dotted around the country, which are supposed to, at worse, do refraction but have assumed the role of optometrists and ophthalmologists.

They cited the activities of a popular optical shop in Accra where the operator is neither an optometrist nor an ophthalmologist but has now "gone way above" to become a self-styled professional administering drugs "and undertaking all kinds of eye treatment."

Such people create problems that the specialists have to solve.

The specialists held that unless the professional body is given a legal backing to check the practices, "there is little anybody could do."

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