NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS — Two hundred and six Nevisians continue receiving care from the Nevis Eye Care Programme at the Alexandra Hospital, through a Telemedicine Clinic which was introduced to ensure that patients got essential eye care in spite of the travel challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hon. Mark. Brantley, Premier of Nevis who is also the Minister of Health, made the disclosure at his recent monthly press conference which was held in Cabinet Room at Pinney’s Estate.
“The eye care programme in Nevis is now world-renowned. Doctors come here, specialists come here twice a year normally to deliver state-of-the-art eye care to the people of Nevis and the wider Federation because many from St. Kitts are now accessing eye care in Nevis.
“Sadly, they were unable to travel this year to come to us but they were able to deliver, through telemedicine care, to some 206 persons, and those 206 persons were checked, their vision, interocular pressure and they performed something they called optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan. Results were sent to the team in the United States via a secure platform that could only be accessed by the doctors there and the nurses, and assessments were made and care was provided. So even though they couldn’t travel we were still able to provide care for some 206 persons,” he said.
Nurse Jenevie Daniel, a retired nurse who has been with the eye care programme since its inception in 1996, in an invited comment on November 02, 2020, described the new clinic as a success one.
“During the former physical bi-annual eye clinics, patients from St. Kitts were also attending. The Telemedicine Clinic covered a total of 206 patients who were all Nevisians.
“To date, the programme is going quite well considering that it’s a pilot project. It was readily accepted by the patients. However, the most challenging aspect was the technology. Success was achieved by communication with Dr. Hubbe and through strong team work. I could not ask for a better team of nurses,” she said.
Nurse Daniel who has been recalled to assist in the eye care programme, at one point in her career headed the eye care clinic. She explained that Dr. Raymond Hubbe, the ophthalmologist in charge of the Nevis Eye Care Programme, brought up the idea of the Eye Care Telemedicine Services, following which Zoom meetings ensued.
The stakeholders who attended included Dr. Judy Nisbett, Medical Officer of Health; Mrs. Eren Hanley, Health Services Administrator; Ms. Ermine Jeffers, Coordinator of Community Nursing Services; and Eye Care Clinic nursing staff.
“The discussions involved the programme, and the programme was to facilitate some patients who were scheduled for the April/May 2020 session, and these patients had to fit the criteria that was specified by Dr. Hubbe.
“Information on past and current visits as well as images of previous OCT scans were inclusive for patients’ data. How to handle information going back and forth which involved the IT team was also discussed. Provision of consent forms and this gave the nurses the permission to send the patient’s medical records via e-services to the ophthalmologists in the US,” Nurse Daniel explained while addressing the some of the steps taken to execute the clinic.
“We had to prepare for the clinical sessions, so in preparation for this the names, the addresses and telephone numbers were selected for those patients who were to be seen during the designated period. Each patient was called, the telemedicine procedure was explained and then given a date and time to attend. The assessment of patients started on August 31, 2020, and spanned a three-week period,” she added.
The nursing staff, made up of nurses Lenore Pemberton, Donna Hill, and Daniel, conducted the examinations and collected the necessary information to send off island via the internet for diagnosis and the course of treatment.
“Based on clinical findings and the interpretation of the OCT scans, patients with priority needs were among the first batch to be sent to Dr. Hubbe and his team of specialists.
“After the online files of patients who were assessed by the doctors, reports and prescriptions for follow-up medications were returned to the nurses. Each patient was contacted via the telephone. His/her report was discussed and then asked to collect his prescription at the eye clinic. The programme is currently into this phase, that is reporting to patients and picking up prescriptions,” she said.
The Nevis Eye Care Program (NECP) is a program of Vision for All Inc., a non-profit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and restoring sight to underserved populations worldwide. The Nevis Eye Care Program works in partnership with the Ministry of Health and especially with the Nevis Public Health Nurses.