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Jamaica Activity: January to December 2021

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

January 2021 marked the 42nd year of CVC’s volunteer activity in Jamaica. From its inception as a student externship in 1979, to the formation of the registered charity in 1981, to the present, CVC has worked with local partners to deliver quality eye care. Due to COVID-19, 2021 also marked the first year in which CVC volunteers were unable to visit Jamaica to provide much needed services.

January 2021

Although CVCE remained in operation, Canadian and US volunteer Optometrists and Ophthalmologists were unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions. As an innovative way to fill the need, CVCE’s Director of Medicine, Dr. Green, contacted ophthalmologists working at Cornwall Regional Hospital to work at CVCE on a sessional basis. Dr. King generously agreed to this arrangement. There were four successful session days in January, and CVCE will continue with this program. Working with Dr. King, in addition to other eye care practices, CVCE will be performing Pterygium surgery at our facility as demand warrants.

February - September 2021

CVCE had two surgical days in February, along with one each in May and August. Dr. King worked one day per week, seeing an average of 30 patients per month. The clinic functioned well during this period.

The Board committed to maintaining staff employment; however, the reduced activity and revenues necessitated a move to four-day work weeks for some staff. This allowed CVCE to remain economically viable and retain the knowledge base built by the staff while providing continuity of care to our patients and employment to our staff during very trying economic times in Jamaica.

The clinic was maintained at a high level between February and September. The flow of glasses from Canada to Jamaica was smooth, and the CVCE board met weekly online with the clinic administrator.

COVID-19 in Jamaica and Canada as well as travel and quarantine restrictions were carefully monitored and assessed with an eye to schedule an Optometry or surgical mission. However, various rules, restrictions and waves of new disease variants precluded this from occurring. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health blocked the issuance of permits to visiting health care professionals due to COVID-19.

On September 22, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (Standards and Regulation Division) brought a team to the clinic for a full inspection. The inspection resulted in a report issued October 27th. The report indicated 27 items to address, including some additions to the building for new COVID-19 protocols, and Community Vision Centre of Excellence CVCE at Clinic 21 Lloyd Young Drive, Montego Bay Jamaica handicap access. The items have been addressed, or contracts put in place to address them prior to the next planned surgical session.

Upon the follow up inspection, both the team and the clinic passed inspection with flying colors. The Ministry of Health and Wellness noted the dedication and hard work of our staff since the facility was commissioned.

October 2021

Dr. King provided two clinic days in October, and CVCE welcomed back Dr. Ania Graham Smith. Dr. Smith came back to the clinic full time, allowing the clinic to book patients five days a week. This greatly improved the clinic’s ability to serve our patients and offered a boost to the staff, returning them to full-time, five-day work week employment. The number of patients the clinic can accommodate was still restricted with COVID-19 protocols.

November - December 2021

November was our first full month of limited operations under the COVID-19 protocols in 2021. Our Canadian partner, HOYA, generously provided all of the lenses free of cost, even with the dramatic increase in lens order numbers.

November also marked the first visit by CVC volunteers in over a year. We were thrilled to find the clinic in excellent shape. Furthermore, the staff were motivated, trained and in good spirits. There were technical and commissioning issues with some of the optometry instruments which were resolved, as well as some building and computer issues to resolve.

December operations were smooth, with the annual Christmas shut down occurring on the 23rd.

Summary of January to December 2021 Activity

The chart below highlights the nature of our patient base. Generally, we are seeing older patients with complex eye issues.

CVCE services given to the people of Jamaica 2021

CVCE staff:

CVCE is committed to supporting our staff during this extraordinary time. We have paid the staff in full during the year with no staff reductions, despite the dramatic reduction in patients seen. The Board of CVCE is very proud of the dedication and professionalism of our staff and look forward to a busy and rewarding year serving the people of Jamaica.

Upcoming events:

As of January 2022, COVID-19 restrictions in Jamaica make volunteer surgical and optometry clinics impractical. There are no firm dates for the lifting of restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 situation. We will monitor and work with the Jamaica Ministry of Health prior to planning further activity.

Plans for 2022:

While Optometry and surgical missions are not possible in the short term, CVCE has non medical plans for 2022. However, plans for updating and resolving building and computer issues are in place.

First, we will work with our contractors to repair the walls in the operating room. There are some cracks in the special surgical grade epoxy wall coatings.

Second, we will have to replace the file server and computer network. These were damaged by a lightening strike in 2019 and have since failed completely. We have committed to using local IT service providers for the required hardware, setup, and maintenance.

Third, we will rework the power backup systems in the OR, as the current large UPS system has aged out.

Fourth, we will, in the medium term, work with volunteers and local service providers to set up a solar system on the clinic roof. This will free the clinic from reliance on very expensive, and somewhat unreliable local grid power. This project has environmental benefits as well as positive economic implications, as the local grid is powered by hydrocarbons, and excess power generated by the solar array can be sold back to the grid.

Thank you:

Thank you to the Brenda Strafford Foundation for the facility and their continued support.

Thank you to Michael Bohbot for his generous donation of hundreds of pairs of eyeglass frames.

Thank you to CVC, Brian Snee, and Gerry Leinweber for further donations of eyeglass frames.

Thank you to HOYA for providing a tracing machine to CVCE and making eyeglass lenses for the clinic for so many years. Also, for assisting with packaging and shipping frames and lenses to Jamaica.

Thank you to Douglas Gore of Mobay Freight Services for providing outstanding expediting and importation services.

And finally, thank you to the dedicated volunteers that have worked so hard to make CVC missions in Jamaica such a success, and have expressed their eagerness to return soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact Gerry Leinweber at 1-403-350-5436 (phone or WhatsApp) or, or Murray Fish at 1-250-551-5389 or if you have any questions.

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