By Phyllis Lee
The Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd’s (GDS) inaugural White Cane Community Day event last Saturday (Sept 30) saw Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min as its guest-of-honour.
In his speech, Dr Lam thanked GDS for serving the visually impaired community, but noted that apart from providing support for them, “it is equally important that we move upstream to prevent the development of serious eye diseases through enhancing eye screening programmes.”
“As our population ages, we can expect more age-related eye conditions. The government has been working towards better support for the blind and visually impaired community,” he said, highlighting the Singapore Integrated Diabetic Retinopathy Programme (SiDRP).
Last year, the Ministry of Health declared war on diabetes. It is projected that 670,000, or 15.2 per cent, of the population will be diagnosed with diabetes in 2030, which will in turn lead to a significant number of patients with diabetic retinopathy (DR).
According to the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), DR is the disorder of blood vessels in the retina of diabetic patients, and the leading cause of new blindness in Singapore.
As there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of DR, it is important for diabetics to go for regular diabetic eye screening for early detection and prevention.
Under the SiDRP, the National Healthcare Group Eye Institute (NHGEI) and SNEC collaborated with polyclinics to support the provisions of diabetic retinal photography (DRP) screening for diabetic patients.
The programme allows retinal images from polyclinics to be transmitted to trained image graders at SNEC and NHGEI. Patients identified to have DR or other retinal conditions will be referred to Specialist Outpatient Clinics accordingly.
“SiDRP exemplifies the collaboration between the acute and primary care settings to provide more convenient and timely care for patients requiring DRP screening and follow-up care,” Dr Lam said.
Since Mar last year, the programme has been made available at all 18 polyclinics, and received more than 78,000 attendances in 2016.
Dr Lam stated:
“We must continue to improve public education on eye care, link up with community care providers, and leverage technology to enhance the quality of life to both our patients and those who are afflicted with vision impairment, so that they can lead more active, independent and fulfilling lives.”