CABINET yesterday approved a system of financial assistance for thousands of primary-school children with eye problems which will see families afforded access to $1,500 in funding every two years for pairs of spectacles.
Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan said 2,397 students are expected to be recommended for eyeglasses for the 2014/2015 academic year. This number is expected to increase annually and peak at 3,620 by the year 2020.
Speaking at a Cabinet media briefing, Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Khan also announced an expansion of the facilities available for cancer treatment with the State doubling current funding from $25 million to $50 million.
A total of 1,000 patients will now be able to seek treatment at the private Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre and the Southern Medical Clinic Oncology Centre for a range of cancers, up from 500. On the issue of eye health, Khan said between 2011 to 2012, an analysis of screening data indicated that about 2.5 percent of first-year children and 10 percent of fourth-standard students have refracted errors needing correction by way of eyeglasses. A nation eye survey has also found there is a “significant number of children with refractive errors” in schools. However, a number of children are without eyeglasses due to lack of funds. To access the system, students will have to be assessed at a health centre, and parents have to complete an application form. The grant is to be administered through the offices of the School Health Programme and the Finance and Accounts Division of the Ministry of Health. Khan said an estimated 110 students have already failed vision screening for 2014/2015. The $1,500 is for the first pair of spectacles. If prescriptions change every two years the same funding will be made available. Eyeglasses costing more than this will be funded up to $1,500 with the remainder funded by parents or guardians. Children with severe problems will be referred to the Blind Welfare Association.