The St John Ophthalmic Branch is involved in supporting Australian and international eye health initiatives, as well as providing eye health education for St John members and the community.
The St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem
The traditional links of the Order of St John with Jerusalem are reflected in the work of the Jerusalem Eye Hospital. This is a major eye hospital established and maintained by international members of the Order including Australia.
The Hospital is in East Jerusalem, and provides ophthalmic care, including sophisticated eye surgery, for a predominantly underprivileged Arab community among whom eye disease is a serious and widespread problem. There is also a clinic in Gaza and an Outreach program through which the villages of the West Bank are visited by a team from the hospital, with the aim of preventing eye disease or treating it at an early stage rather than allowing it to take hold and then require therapy.
In 2010 the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital group treated more than 102,000 patients. This was an increase of over 10,000 from the previous year and more patients than has ever been treated in St John History. In the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital annual review the incredible work performed by the nurses was recognised, as well as focusing on the quality of training the hospital trains local people with a goal of investing in the community and rebuilding local infrastructure.
Much of the blindness around the world and particularly in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is preventable, and with a rate of blindness 10 times higher than in the west the St John Eye Hospital group is performing a vital service.
St John Ambulance Australia supports the Eye hospital through its support of outreach nurses and along with Western Australia and New South Wales funds Ophthalmic Outreach Nurses – Taha Amerah (funded entirely by NSW), Hannan Za'alan and Malika Bretiom (funded entirely by WA) and Khaled Zuaiter (funded by the National Office).
Supporting the People of Oecussi, East Timor
The St John Ophthalmic national program provides support to the people of Oecussi in East Timor. This is a joint venture with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons which has been operating now for several years. The types of procedures performed included: Cataract & Intraocular Lens; Pterygium; Chalazion; Repair of Iris Prolapse; Capsulotomy; Superficial Keratotomy; Enucleation; and Anterior Orbitotomy. St John contributed a microscope, surgical consumables and a number of first aid kits that were donated to the Oecussi community.
As well as the partnership with the College over the last three years St John have also sent a team of volunteers who have been involved in providing first aid and related training to the hospital staff and other local people in Oecussi. As well as teaching First aid skills the volunteers have also helped in teaching English language skills in a health care context. The volunteers found the time spent teaching ambulance staff basic first aid skills such as recovery position, basic airway management and moving patients particularly rewarding.
St John NSW provide high quality eye care in Northern NSW in conjunction with Pius X Medical Clinic. The Moree clinic provides comprehensive primary, secondary and tertiary eye care. Recently St John NSW have purchased equipment so they can conduct eye screening in the remote indigenous areas of Toomelah, Boggabilla, Wee-waa and Mungindi.
St John is a self-funding charity. To help support these and other St John initiatives, contact St John on 1300 360 455. Your generous donation could save a life.