This program earned a Gold award.
A lack of affordable medical services in and around Grahamstown has meant that many people in the area are not able to access healthcare. To address this, St John Grahamstown has established two programmes: The Community Eye Clinic; and Home-Based Care/First Aid training. The Community Eye Clinic is run in partnership with a number of local optometrists and hospitals. These optometrists provide eye-care services free of charge (often one or two days a week); and a number of organizations sponsor spectacles. This enables people who would not otherwise be able to afford spectacles to receive a pair for a minimal cost. When people come to the clinic to receive spectacles, they also have their eyes tested for other problems, meaning that numerous eye problems (eg. cataracts, glucomas etc) can be detected. Outreaches are also conducted a number of times a year, when optometrists carry out cataract operation for those who have been identified by the Clinic. Patients are usually given transport to and from the clinic; and those with ore complicated procedures are taken to the Provincial hospital in Port Elizabeth. The Home-Based Care/First Aid training provides free courses to community members in Home-Based Care, First Aid and Counselling. They are provided with First Aid kits, which allows them to help out in their communities if needed; and also tries to help trainees find employment after completing the course. This training is also provided at a fee to companies or businesses, to help cover the costs of the free community trainings.
Innovation: The project aims to provide accessible healthcare to people in the area through the Community Eye Clinic; as well as providing Home-Based Care and First Aid training, which will enable the trainees to give back to the community in the form of their new skills. People coming to the clinic for glasses are also tested for other eye problems; and these are detected and treated much earlier than they otherwise would have been.
Effectiveness: Since 2003/04, 616 people have been trained through the Home-Based Care and First Aid training. Exact figures for the eye clinic are difficult to establish, but in 2008: 288 patients underwent eye-operations (mainly for removal of cataracts); 2000 patients attended clinics, and 301 were supplied with spectacles; 300 patients were sent to specialists for more complicated conditions (at no cost to themselves).
Poverty Impact: The Eye Clinic has provided affordable eye treatment to hundreds of people over the years; as well as giving many the chance to receive vision-saving operations on cataracts. Many of these people were able to return to work and start earning an income again; while a number of children have been provided with glasses which allows them to perform better in school. The Home-Based Care/First Aid training also enabled a number of trainees to find jobs on completion.
Sustainability: The project has already been running for a number of years, and through a number of personnel changes, meaning it is sustainable in terms of finances and staff. Training is offered to companies for a fee, which helps to cover the costs of running the free community trainings. The remainder of the costs are currently covered by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. The majority of the services provided in the Community Eye Clinic are through donations (Rotary and Round Table donate large numbers of spectacles; and local optometrists provide services free of charge at the outreaches), which also means minimal costs to the organization.
Replication: The Eye Care Clinic could be replicated in other regions, provided that significant funding is sourced, or numerous partnerships can be established to supply necessary materials and services. Other branches of St John also have similar clinics. However, it would probably need to be initiated by a fairly large and well-established NGO or company. The training workshops could probably be replicated with less funding, although the courses would most likely need to be accredited.