International NGO Orbis’ Flying Eye Hospital, which flies around the world performing eye surgeries and training doctors in ophthalmological techniques aboard a converted DC-10 aircraft, landed at Phnom Penh International Airport on Dec 9.
Onboard the fully equipped plane and at Phnom Penh’s Preah Andoung hospital, more than 20 doctor and nurse volunteers from 14 different countries will have treated around 45 patients free of charge by the time the two-week stay concludes Friday, said Orbis communications manager Caroline Bergman.
Priority was given to patients who are bilaterally blind and may have a chance of sight, as well as children and those most in need financially, said Bergman. Headquartered in New York, Orbis has treated more than 4.4 million patients in 85 countries over the last 25 years.
During this first visit to Cambodia, they will be training more than 80 nurses and 50 doctors from Cambodia, as well as 12 from Burma and 15 from Laos.
There are currently eight ophthalmologists and 40 other eye doctors in Cambodia.
With an estimated 140,000 people—or roughly 1 percent of Cambodia’s population—currently suffering from blindness, Orbis also aims to build awareness about eye diseases—and how easily most, like cataracts, can be treated.
Seng Sok, 56, from Kandal province, said last week that the hour-long surgery on his glaucoma—high pressure in the eye that can ultimately kill one’s vision—went smoothly.
“If I didn’t have this, the doctors said I would go blind,” he said, adding that he was thrilled to be on a plane.
Pok Thorn, an Orbis trainee and eye doctor who works at Kean Khlaing hospital in Phnom Penh, said the interactive training methods used by Orbis have been extremely helpful. For some of the procedures, however, he said modern equipment is needed that hospitals in Cambodia don’t have.
Bergman said patients were screened through local hospitals, and those who suffer from eye problems should visit their local health clinics to become eligible for future Orbis treatment.