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Optometrists seek inclusion in FG’s health sector reform c’ttee

Optometrists in Nigeria have raised concern over the non-inclusion of their umbrella body, the Nigerian Optometric Association, in the Health Sector Reform Committee recently set up by the Federal Government.

They said the exclusion from the committee was even more worrisome because the association had participated in all the meetings called by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Vesta Healthcare Partners and the Federal Ministry of Health in 2019, which gave birth to the reform committee.

In a statement signed by Okechukwu Egboluche, public relations officer of the Nigerian Optometric Association, and made available to newsmen, the association drew attention of the public to a State House press release dated September 6, 2021 on the setting up of Health Sector Reform Committee by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The committee, headed by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, has been mandated to review all healthcare reforms adopted in the past two decades, and factor them into the development of the new Health Sector Reform Programme.

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According to the statement, Obinna Awiaka, president of Nigerian Optometric Association, said that efforts were being made to ensure that optometry gets its rightful place in the imminent health sector reform deliberations.

Awiaka stressed the relevance of optometry as a health-care profession that specialises in the art and science of vision care and whose scope of practice includes examination of the eyes to determine departures from optimally healthy and visually efficient eye. He said that optometrists are primary eye care practitioners, adding that omitting such a profession with a huge role in primary health care is a great disservice to the country.

He appealed to the president, the minister of health, Vesta Consulting, BPE and other relevant authorities to do the right thing and include the Nigeria Optometric Association in the health sector reform committee for a comprehensive and robust health reform that will improve all aspects of health care.

Awiaka regretted that a number of optometrists have contracted COVID-19 in the course of work, and some of them have lost their lives in the process, emphasising that optometrists need non-contact equipment to reduce the risk of infection while handling procedures and examinations with patients.

The NOA national president appealed to all optometrists to be optimistic as the association would leave no stone unturned in its efforts to surmount the challenges optometrists face in Nigeria’s complex health sector so as to position the profession in its rightful place.

He said the association has made suggestions to the federal ministry of health on a Unified Guideline for Optical dispensing in government hospitals, a programme aimed at harnessing untapped revenue potentials from optical centre operations in government hospitals.

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