Hundreds of patients and medical practitioners stand to benefit from the arrival of the Orbis Flying Hospital, a Boeing MD-10 which has been converted into a working hospital in Jamaica for the next three weeks.

Sponsored by FedEx, Orbis’s global corporate partner, the plane arrived at the Norman Manley International on March 24 and is operated by Orbis International, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to saving sight worldwide.

This is the organisation’s 8th visit to Jamaica and forms part of collaboration between the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Orbis to screen 175 patients with eye conditions, perform 87 surgeries and train 175 eye health professionals across the Caribbean including  Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, and Haiti.

“We have to find a way to reduce blindness from preventable diseases with education and screening. With Orbis here, it will help to highlight the problem that we can help to make the population more aware that they need to get their eyes checked when you have certain conditions”, said Dr Lizette Mowatt, Head of the Ophthalmology Department at UWHI and President of the Ophthalmological Society of Jamaica.

The first week will include hands-on training session tailored for ophthalmologists, nurses, anesthesiologists, biomedical engineers, and other allied eye health professionals whilst the upcoming weeks will focus on surgeries. The training focuses on cataract, glaucoma, strabismus, oculoplastic and retinal diseases.

“We believe in the patients and getting care to patients. Today, 253 million people suffer from blindness and visual impairment that can either be cured or prevented; 75 per cent of those people can be saved with quality, high care treatment. Those who suffer are often the most vulnerable in our society from the poorest class. This is why we are all here because we all care”, said Amelia Geary, Director of Programme Development of Quality at Orbis International.

Since 1982, Orbis has worked in over 17 countries in Latin America & the Caribbean region. This is the 25th project in the Caribbean. Previously, the Flying Eye Hospital had been to Cuba eight times, Barbados one time, as well as four times in Trinidad and the Dominican Republic respectively.