By Felicia Imohimi
The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) has pledged its commitment to collaborate with government to ensure the absorption of optometrists’ internship in government health institutions.
Dr Ozy Okonokhua, the newly elected President of NOA gave the assurance in a statement issued on Sunday after he assumed office on Saturday in Abuja.
Okonokhua lamented that optometrists were not given due recognition both in full time practice and internship in public health institutions in spite of the key role they perform in delivering healthcare.
He described the development as unacceptable noting that the daily activities of every individual were incomplete without the services of optometrist.
According to Okonokhua, “Optometrist is a healthcare professional who specialises in the art and science of vision care and whose scope of practice include—eye examinations to determine refractive errors and other departures from the optimally healthy and visually efficient eye.
“Corrections of refractive errors of binocularity by means of vision training (orthoptics); diagnosis and management of minor ocular infections which do not pose a threat to the integrity of the ocular or visual system and ocular first aid.
“The Optometrist by training is in the position to move vision and eye care delivery as close as possible to where people live and work, yet they are not given due recognition,” he said.
He specifically identified some of the challenges presently facing the association to include issues of identity, deprivation of equitable opportunities with other healthcare providers and poor recognition in public sector.
“Improper organisation of private practice with regard to optometrists, non absorption of optometrists’ internship in some public health institutions are also among the challenges we face.”
He pointed out that his administration would do everything possible to ensure optometrists were empowered to practice to the fullest.
“Part of my target is to make the average optometrist have a sense of belonging or a pride of place in public sector.
“Presently, optometrists are not given their due recognition in the public institutions in Nigeria; we have issues where they do not even take optometrist in the internship placement in some federal institutions.
“The Federal Ministry of Health should look at a situation where every qualified and competent optometrist is given a place of internship and due placement in the health system.
“We will collaborate with the Federal, State and Local government in order to realise this and also enhance their professional competent.
“We are already negotiating with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) to see how more optometrists can actually be engaged at the primary healthcare level to ensure remarkable reduction of avoidable blindness burden.
“Another basic thing we want to do is to ensure that every activity of the association is done in such a way that every optometrist is empowered to actually practice to the fullest, as we have been having issues regarding identity,”Okonokhua said.
The immediate past President, Dr, Damian Echendu while congratulating the new executive members, assured them of his support to ensure they succeed in their quest to move the association to greater height.
Echendu urged the new executive to always interface with members to address the current challenges facing the association.
According to him, it is regrettable that the association still toddles owning to countless deprivation of opportunities in spite its 50 years of existence.
“We will do everything humanly possible to support you in your quest to surmount those challenges bedeviling the profession, and I believe with God you will succeed,” Echendu said.