On Monday July 3rd, the second in a series of eye clinics designed to examine all public sector employees, commenced at the Air Station of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force and one high ranking official is describing the initiative as a necessary component in the fight against crime in the twin island state.
Speaking during the official launch today (Tuesday), Acting Prime Minister and Minister of National Security and Public Safety, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin noted that the eye care program will greatly help law enforcement officials and national security personnel to see and detect crime more clearly.
He said that immediately after the Defence Force eye screening phase is completed, the Royal Antigua-Barbuda Police Force and other crime fighting agencies will be next in line since better eye sight will lead to better crime fighting results.
“I happen to be the Minister of Public Safety, so the Police Force my friend will be next and all those persons in law enforcement will follow suit. They are the vanguard of safety, they must be able to see and detect not only crimes that are being committed but persons who may be committing crime and if in fact their vision is impaired, they will not be able to perform their duty as they ought to”, Minister Benjamin said.
Defence Force Chief of Staff, Colonel Sir Trevor Thomas, expressed his department’s perspective of the eye care program, saying that it was not only useful and cost effective, but also time saving.
“We were concerned and have always been concerned within the ABDF that men leaving the bases and going into the town to visit the doctor or dentist is a waste of government’s time and tax payers` money. Sometimes they go into town and spend a whole day waiting to see a doctor when their time could be better utilized if they were seen on site and it’s for that very reason why I had the discussion with the Minister of Health”, Sir Trevor disclosed.
Up to three hundred Defence Force service personnel and support staff will be examined.
The Public Sector Eye Service is a partnership between the Government of Antigua & Barbuda and the Caribbean Council for the Blind & Visually Impaired (CCB) and was approved by Cabinet on March 15th 2017.
Chief Executive Officer of CCB, Mr. Arvel Grant disclosed that his organization was mainly prompted to get involved in such a venture after it was revealed that 7,262 individuals in a population of 81 thousand were living in Antigua & Barbuda, with blindness in one or both eyes.
The clinic is being led by Ms. Khohane Blake, who is a CCB’s Optometrist, Diabetic Retinopathy Grader and Medical Epidemiologist and is being supported by a team of twelve clinicians, including 6 army medics.
Every individual examined will be provided with a written summary of their eye health status, which they may take to their preferred eye care provider for follow-up as may be required.
Service personnel and other staff with conditions which would require emergency medical or surgical interventions will be referred to the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre for follow-up.