All in a Day’s Work for Rex

3 October 2015

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As an ophthalmic clinical officer (OCO), Rex Bwanausi is a lynchpin in the fight against preventable blindness in Malawi.

Involved at every stage, from overseeing the volunteers who track down potential patients, to organising screening camps and performing trichiasis surgeries, OCOs ensure that sight-saving treatment is made available to people in the most remote regions of the country. Sightsavers has trained OCOs like Rex in every district of Malawi.

Based at Chikwawa District Hospital, Rex organises regular outreach sessions designed to encourage people in rural communities to have their eyes examined. As many people in these areas are not literate, an ‘E-chart’ is used instead of a conventional letter chart to assess sight. Rex attends the camps to diagnose eye problems, and provides on-the-spot treatment for eye infections.

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The ‘E Chart’ used in testing

If he diagnoses a case of trichiasis, Rex is able to refer the patient for surgery, which he will usually perform himself at a regional hospital. Patients with cataract are put on a list to be treated by a visiting surgeon, as Rex is not qualified to perform cataract surgery. Children with cataract must travel to Blantyre, to be treated by the only doctor in Malawi able to perform paediatric cataract surgery.

Rex also supervises a network of volunteers trained to track down people suffering eye problems in their villages, and to ensure that they attend the camps to get the help they need. He regularly reports to Mabuchi, the co-ordinator for the South West Zone Comprehensive Eye Care Project.

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Rex examining patients