The Eye Service at Good Shepherd was established in 1998. Dr Jonathan Pons, with assistance from the Christian Blind Mission (CBM), established the clinic in a side room with minimal equipment. Cataract surgery was done in the hospital minor-theatre and since there were no beds allocated for eye patients, they slept on floor-beds! Dr Pons discovered that Cataract blindness in Eswatini was common; yet the blind were unaware of, or were unable to access, the new service. A strong community outreach programme was the only solution. With only one ophthalmologist, and with the backlog of un-operated cataract blindness, the clinic soon became very busy.
Training of an Ophthalmic Nurse was a priority and Sr Senani Mabaso excelled in her one-year course in South Africa. She returned to Good Shepherd in 2000 and helped to grow the service with her excellent nursing and clinical skills. She remains head matron of the eye clinic.
In 2002, the eye ward was opened, the clinic moved to larger premises and a small operating theatre established - all in a building designed and built to be a maternity wing! In 2004, we moved into a new theatre block adjacent to the ward and at the same time, the clinic relocated into larger rooms.
Training soon became a priority, and over the history of the clinic many surgeons have received short courses in manual small incision cataract surgery. In 2010, the first candidate for the South African Diploma in Ophthalmology began his 6 month training. Dr Will Mapham completed his training and has taken the skills learned in Eswatini to his new work-place in the Eastern Cape, RSA. At the same time, a Fellowship in International Ophthalmology was being developed with Eric, a brave USA Ophthalmologist, being the prototype. Many doctors have been trained in the eye clinic ever since.
Research and writing for publication have become more central to the ethos of the clinic. Numerous articles and publications have and are being submitted. These cover: Design of operating tables, information systems for clinic use, articles for books and journals and research into aspects of community blindness.
Vision 2020 activities in Eswatini were begun at Good Shepherd and today the eye clinic has the honour of being a catalyst and founder member for these activities.
The future looks bright for this innovative and progressive clinic: it is well placed to meet the increasing demand for eye health, especially in a poor country besieged by twin HIV and Tuberculosis catastrophes. Many people from the neighbouring countries (Mozambique and South Africa) utilise the services. Training of doctors and nurses in Ophthalmology will only increase as will research into all aspects of eye care in a resource-poor setting.