Technology, organization of effort crucial for disaster recovery
NEW ORLEANS — Ophthalmologists can play a key role in disaster recovery by mobilizing efforts, organizing aid and offering services to areas and citizens affected by natural disasters, according to several ophthalmologists who detailed their efforts to support areas affected by recent disasters.
“Our mission was to restore and maintain vision to let victims recover their lives. That meant treating acute problems, providing glasses and lost medications, screening and diagnosing for eye disease, and finding a medical home for those that we encountered,” Amy G. Coburn, MD, vice chairman of Prevent Blindness Texas, said at a press conference during the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting.
Coburn and associates with Prevent Blindness Texas and Houston Ophthalmological Society responded to Houston in September after Hurricane Harvey. After establishing two fixed centers at shelters at NRG Stadium and George R. Brown Convention Center, Coburn and volunteers examined 1,650 patients, screened 1,350 patients and dispensed 1,587 pairs of glasses from Sept. 3 to Sept. 20.
An ophthalmologist’s role in a disaster, first and foremost, is as an MD, said Enrique O. Graue-Hernandez, MD, MSc, FACS, of Mexico.
A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Sept. 19, leading to thousands of citizens in need of medical attention.
“We need to care for the safety of our own and the wellness of others. Make any kind of resources you have available for anyone,” he said.
Having a plan to recover in the immediate, the midterm and the long term is needed, Graue-Hernandez said. Providing immediate help to those who need it, reaching out and letting the community know you are available to help in the midterm, and preparing in the long term for another disaster are key in any situation, he said.
Richard K. Lee, MD, PhD, of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and several colleagues took their mobile eye unit, the Vision Van, to Key West, Florida, to provide services and aid to residents affected by Hurricane Irma, which struck in September.
“You need to anticipate needs. If you have to ask about it, you should bring it. You need to help in any way possible, whether you’re doing ophthalmic or non-ophthalmic work,” he said.
Technology is crucial during disaster relief. Mobile devices can test for visual acuity, autorefraction and IOP, and can be used for digital fundus photography and many other tests that were previously unable to be performed, he said. – by Robert Linnehan
Lessons learned from the hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Presented at American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting; Nov. 11-14, 2017; New Orleans.
Disclosures: The speakers report no relevant financial disclosures.