Making a Difference
Significant steps forward in eye care in PNG, May 2012
John Farmer has returned home to work with Leunig and Farmer Eyecare after spending almost two years training nurses and rural doctors in eye care in Papua New Guinea.
In June 2010, John took up a position with the Fred Hollows Foundation as PNG Education Manager. He was also the Head of the Department of Eye Care at the Divine Word University in Madang.
John said ..."It was a real blessing for Judy and I to be able to live and work in PNG. I really enjoyed the teaching and leading of the training programs. My primary role was to teach and also to coordinate visiting lecturers in delivering the Post Graduate Diploma in Eyecare (PGDEC) course. This is a one year program for qualified Nurses and Health Extension Officers (Rural Doctors). During the course these graduates are trained to become non surgical eye care clinicians with the title "Ophthalmic Clinicians".
There were 10 graduates in the 2010 course and 8 graduates in 2011. John was in PNG until the middle of March this year to start the 2012 course for another 8 students and hand over to the incoming Head of Department.
"We lived in a small one bedroom unit on the university campus which was relatively safe." John said. "As well as leading the teaching and coordinating the training courses, I was able to help with the progress of eye care development at a national level... something that is much harder to do when only visiting part time. Working with the PNG Medical Board I has able to gain registration for the graduates of the one year PGDEC course as 'Ophthalmic Clinicians' providing them formal recognition in the PNG health system.
Together with one of the senior Ophthalmologists in PNG, Dr Jambi Garap, I co-wrote the National Eye Plan 2011-2015 that was adopted by all those working in eye care in PNG including the various international aid organisations. Eye Care is now leading the way as the only clinical discipline in health care to have a comprehensive national plan. .We were also able to establish a National Prevention of Blindness Committee that I am still serving on. This National Prevention of Blindness Committee has attracted financial support from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
In line with the National Eye Plan I also re-introduced a 10 week certificate in eye care course to train rural nurses and health workers in basic eye care. This was also conducted at the Divine Word University and ten people successfully completed this course in 2011, and it is set to run again this year. The more people we can train appropriately the more people will have access to eye care in a country in which there are few health resources."
In PNG there are 14 ophthalmologists and 30 ophthalmic Clinicians trying to serve a population of almost 7 million. This is desperately inadequate given Australia with 3 times the population has over 700 ophthalmologists and over 3000 optometrists.
John is also active on the board of the PNG Eye Care which is a national NGO organisation (supported by the International Centre for Eyecare Education) working to make glasses accessible and affordable to the 7 million people of PNG.
Now back working with Leunig and Farmer, John will continue his PNG involvement returning to PNG from time to time for short visits continue to provide some teaching and to support the trained eye care workers.
This year marks 30 years since John first visited PNG to undertake eye care in 1982. "It has been amazing to see what has been accomplished over those years from the humble beginnings of Leunig and Farmer doing short term trips to remote areas of PNG to training PNG workers to do the work themselves. The nurses and HEO's we have trained and will continue to mentor and support are now the backbone of eye care in PNG" John said.
Second Vision Centre in PNG under Development , June 2009
Leunig & Farmer Eyecare cofounding partner and optometrist John Farmer this month returned from his most recent trip to Papua New Guinea. The primary objective of Mr Farmer’s visit was to provide further training and support to the Vision Centre he established in the Port Moresby General Hospital last year.
The Vision Centre, which enables the community to access low cost eye examinations and glasses where it is otherwise unavailable, has become increasingly busy since its opening in October last year.
“It is fantastically rewarding to see the Vision Centre delivering affordable eyecare to the people of PNG. Even with the addition of new staff which have been recruited and trained to help absorb some of the increasing demands of the Vision Centre, there is a large volume of patients coming through for them to assist,” Mr Farmer said.
The success of the Vision Centre in Port Moresby has lead to plans for the opening of a second Vision Centre in PNG at Mt Hagen. The third largest city in PNG, Mt Hagen is the capital of the Western Highlands Province, approximately 500 km northwest of Port Moresby.
“Staff has already been appointed for this new Vision Centre, initial training has commenced and some stock has been delivered. There are many critical things we learnt through the set up of the Port Moresby Vision Centre which will greatly assist this second centre,” said Mr Farmer.
Mr Farmer says he is deeply satisfied by seeing affordable eyecare in PNG become increasingly available. His involvement is fuelled by his desire to help others. “I have been given the opportunity to make a real significant difference and I am delighted to be doing just that.”
Leunig & Farmer Eyecare has a long history of involvement in optometric training and development abroad. In recent years, PNG has been the focus of their support through Mr Farmer’s work.
The Vision Centres are sponsored by the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), an Australian, not for profit organization that delivers eye care programs worldwide.
Mr Farmer expects to return to PNG later this year to continue his critical assistance with the development of the two Vision Centres.
If you would like to contribute to the Vision Centres, please make a donation through a Leunig & Farmer Eyecare practice in Drouin, Moe, Pakenham or Warragul.
Optical Workshop in PNG Celebrates its Official Launch in October, 2008
Leunig & Farmer Eyecare cofounding partner and optometrist John Farmer has returned to Gippsland following the official opening of the optical workshop in Port Moresby he helped create.
Attended by Professor Brien Holden OAM, International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) Chair, Mr Chris Moraitis, Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, and optical workshop staff, the launch was a celebration the partnership between ICEE, the staff of the Port Moresby Hospital Eye Clinic, the hospital management and staff and the PNG Health Department and their collective effort to bring the optical workshop to life.
During the opening, Mr Farmer said he felt immensely proud. “I felt so proud of the local people and what they have done with a little bit of help and support. We all want our life to make a difference and I have the privilege of working with these people to make a real difference for good, in helping many people have a better life.”
“The main thing going through my mind was, wow, we’ve really done it. We have established a sustainable low cost vision centre in PNG that will enable many more people to access eye care and glasses and so be able to see. It was a great feeling.”
Mr Famer said the highlight of the trip was meeting the Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Mr Chris Moraitis and talking with him about eye care and the future needs in PNG. “He is a fine man and cares about PNG and its development. He was very supportive of what we are doing,” Mr Farmer explained.
On his return, Mr Farmer says his patients are overwhelmingly positive and supportive of his work in PNG. “They are very supportive of what we are doing and supportive of me for being involved. The Leunig and Farmer involvement in PNG eye care has become important to them over time and they feel a connection through me to the wonderful impact it is having on people in PNG.”
Mr Farmer said his focus is now to provide ongoing remote support from Gippsland to the staff he has trained. “We have already increased our staff in Port Moresby to 4 people so it is growing rapidly and having an increasing impact. They need continued support which I can offer via email and over the phone.” He will be returning to PNG again for short visits next year to continue training and encouragement of the local people. “We will be establishing at least three more similar centres in other major hospitals in PNG over the next six months so there is still more work to be done.”
If you would like to make a donation of funds to the workshop in PNG, please visit your local Leunig & Farmer Eyecare in Drouin, Moe, Pakenham or Warragul.
Left to right with local dancers, Gerhard Schlenther, Research and Programs Manager, Asia - Pacific, ICEE, Professor Brien Holden OAM, ICEE Chair, and John Farmer, Leunig & Farmer Eyecare
Photo courtesy of ICEE
John Farmer Returns to PNG in August, 2008
Whilst maintaining his work as optometrist and co founding partner of Leunig & Farmer Eyecare, in August John Farmer returns to Port Moresby, PNG to continue the management of a challenging and rewarding project.
Following Leunig & Farmer Eyecare’s long involvement in optometric training and development abroad, and borne of John’s desire to bring the people of PNG the same access to eyecare that Australia enjoys, the project involves establishing an optical workshop in Port Moresby. “Many of the people in PNG do not have access to eyecare, and what care is available they simply cannot afford. I am helping to change that,” explains John.
This project is being sponsored by the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), an Australian, not for profit organization that delivers eye care programs worldwide.
Already, the newly renovated workshop can manufacture simple spherical lenses for glasses, and it is anticipated that following John’s visit early this month, the workshop will also be able to manufacture more complex bifocal and cylinder lenses to cater to a broader range of visual deficits.
During his most recent visit, John’s focus in the workshop meant rolling up his sleeves and being hands on with setting up optical equipment and products, installing phone lines and broadband, establishing bank accounts, completing the physical set up of furniture and office supplies and meeting with the local ophthalmologists all whilst the workshop was already in operation.
Being physically present in the workshop during operation enabled John to spend time training the staff to deal with various optometric situations as they arose, such as prescriptions, refractive errors, associated symptoms and the optical correction of these problems. “I believe in teaching what is needed”, says John, “to understand and be able to deal with the problems that commonly present, and doing so by building the skill and knowledge up layer by layer.”
John’s August trip will focus on the continuation of training, with an emphasis on the manufacture of complex lenses, and ordering custom made lenses from a laboratory as is done in Gippsland. Appropriate office and accounting procedures for the workshop will also be set up.
John says he is feeling “delighted” about the project, as it is something he has wanted to do for many years and is deeply satisfied by seeing it come together. His involvement is fuelled by his keenness to help others. “I have been blessed with the opportunity to make a real significant difference in a time and place where others were not doing anything to help. I believe it is a part of what God created me to do.”
“It is a logical extension to use my skills and knowledge to help others in developing countries as well as here in Gippsland. My patients at Leunig & Farmer Eyecare are fantastic and continue to give me great satisfaction. The support of these patients and those people within the business help make my continued involvement possible, and for that I am extremely grateful,” says John.
If you would like to make a donation to the workshop in PNG, please visit your local Leunig & Farmer Eyecare in Drouin, Moe, Pakenham or Warragul.
Leunig & Farmer Eyecare Donates Hundreds of Glasses to PNG in 2008
Leunig & Farmer Eyecare is proud to donate hundreds of pairs of a wide range of new frames to the optical workshop in PNG.
You too can support the optical workshop by making a donation at any Leunig & Farmer Eyecare optometry practice at Drouin, Moe, Pakenham or Warragul.