Health care in the Pacific faces a number of challenges including low government spending, a lack of doctors and nurses, and rundown clinics and equipment. It’s also very hard for patients living in remote communities to access the health services they need. We established the Pacific Eye Institute in 2006 to help address these issues, with a focus on providing training in eye care for local doctors and nurses.
The Pacific Eye Institute was initially located at Tamavua Hospital in Suva. In 2010, we built a new custom-made eye care and teaching facility to house the Institute on the grounds of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva. The opening of the new facility allowed the Institute and the hospital to join forces, increasing both teaching and patient care and helping to cement the Pacific Eye Institute’s role as an eye care hub in the country and the region.
In 2011, the Diabetes Eye Clinic was opened at the Institute to provide diabetes eye care services and to deliver a teaching programme for nurses in diabetes eye care. This followed our research in 2009 which revealed that more than 40 percent of adults aged 40 years and over in Fiji have diabetes, meaning demand for diabetes eye care services is huge.
Before the Pacific Eye Institute, the only place where Pacific doctors could be trained in eye care was in Papua New Guinea. This lack of eye care training opportunities for Pacific doctors had led to a tendency for them to take short, non-clinical, one-year eye care courses in Australia and New Zealand. These provided inadequate eye care training for the Pacific doctors and further re-training was generally required. The establishment of the Pacific Eye Institute meant that local Pacific doctors had the opportunity to be properly trained in their own region.
The Institute offers a series of courses in eye health, focused on the particular eye care needs of the Pacific. The courses are administered by Fiji National University’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. It also provides ongoing professional development and workforce support to its graduates and other eye care workers, advocates for investment in eye care, and undertakes research.
The Pacific Eye Institute is a significant provider of eye care services in Fiji and in outreach locations across the Pacific, performing around 2,000 eye surgeries a year. This means there are good opportunities for eye nurses and doctors in-training to get practical experience.
In 2017, in partnership with the Colonial War Memorial Hospital’s eye department, the Pacific Eye Institute:
The Institute is also the base for our Pacific outreach team and the Mobile Eye Clinic, which in 2017 delivered a further:
The Pacific Eye Institute has trained 161 eye doctors, nurses, and technicians. In 2018 there are 25 students enrolled.