History of Optometry in Ghana
The first optometry school in Ghana started in the KNUST department of Physics in 1992. The first class had just five students and were instructed by Dr. Morny (Ghana's first optometrist). It initially offered only postgraduate degrees, soon also offered bachelor's degrees. In 2004, just as the first batch of optometrist with the bachelor's degrees had graduated, they were enrolled for the two year Doctor of Optometry (O.D) program. In 2002, the University of Cape Coast also began a Doctor of Optometry program.
The training of Optometrist in Ghana spans a period of six years during which time over 50 specialized courses and procedures are taught and practised. These include:
- General anatomy
- Ocular anatomy
- Pre and post surgical management of conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma
- Head and neck anatomy
- Dispensing optics
- Ocular manifestations of systemic disease
- Refraction and refractive procedures
- Contact lens
- Low vision
- Health care law and ethics
- Hospital administration
Newly qualified Optometrists
Currently, the newly graduated optometrists are inducted into the AHPC/Ghana Optometric Association so they can do their one year internship at any of the Ministry of Health Hospitals or accredited eye clinics throughout the country.
After their internship, they are required to write a professional exam to obtain a practise licence, renewable annually.
For a facility to qualify to train housemen optometrist, there should be
- A permanent Optometrist or Ophthalmologist on site. Some of the accredited internship facilities are under listed:
- 37 Military Hospital
- Accra regional hospital (Ridge hospital)
- Central Regional Hospital, Cape Coast
- Koforidua Regional Hospital
- Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi
- Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital
- Sunyani Regional Hospital
- Takoradi regional Hospital, Takoradi
- Tamale Teaching Hospital, Tamale
- Tema General Hospital
- Volta Regional Hospital, Ho
Ministry of Health and Optometrists
The Ministry of Health through its hospitals and health facilities is the main provider of eye care services in the country. Over the years it has taken various initiates to train Optometrist through the various Universities. It is its aim to ensure that there is at least one functioning eye unit in every district of the country. So far the number of facilities is woefully inadequate to serve the needs of those who need such services. The MOH is still doing its best to lift the practice of Optometry in Ghana. At the 2010 induction ceremony for new Optometrist it promised to help regulate the activities of Optometrist more The situation would have been far worse if the various eye care facilities of the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) where not functioning. Thirty-five percent of Ghana's health service provision is done by CHAG. As and when new district eye centre are created, an Optometrist is posted there to attend to the district's eye care needs. It must be stated that to date, the MOH is the biggest single employer of Optometrist in the country and the MOH deems with all seriousness the role they play in helping the save the sight of Ghanaians.
As the average Ghanaian becomes more enlightened concerning the eye and its conditions, Optometrists would be required to do more too for their patients. The major concerns that eye patients raise are:
*the long wait periods for them to see the eye doctor. One the average it take about two hours for patients to access eye care services in most MOH hospitals and clinics.
*poor patient education practise from doctor to the patient
With respect to the above most Optometrist the world over are adapting Information and communication technologies(ICT) to help the patient better. With respect to the long wait hours, various Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are being used. These do away with paper and manual recording of patient data. As such the patient does not need to wait for his or her records before seeing the doctor. EMRs the world over have been shown to reduce doctor-patient interactions by up to three times. Ghanaian Optometrist are now turning to the use of EMRs to improve their daily work. Those who are using these EMRs bear witness to this fact and are continually advocating for the use of EMRs among their colleagues. One of the EMRs in use in Ghana is the Facility Overall Versatile Eyecare Application (FOVEA).
Concerning patient education, various ICT tools are also being used. They include:
*TV based educational tools that play (with vocal renditions in the most widely spoken language within the location of the clinic) whiles patients wait their turn in the waiting area.
*Computer Assisted Patient Educational tools, that serve as a one-on-one tool for the Optometrist during his or her patient education.
Courtesy: Jerome Abaka-Cann, O.D (part of this article also appears on Wikipedia with permission from the same author)