More from the Good Shepherd Eye Clinic opening on July 30, 2018. Below is Dr Jonathan Pons’ speech at the event.
“Doctor! Thank you for doing the surgery, I can now see. But there is only one little thing… It was just that I had to wait a long time, and the place was very crowded.”
These were the words of a patient. We were consulting in the old building, very crowded, with one door for both in and out. And you will know what that means when you have 2 elderly and blind Swazi’s.. They both meet at the door and push.. Your only entrance to the clinic has an official traffic-jam! Moreover, our patient was right: We consulted in a small room and in that room were 2 Ophthalmologists, 2 nurses, 2 student nurses from the college, Matron of the department, 2 benches each with 4 people on. And at least one of those 8 patients is going to be in a wheelchair or on crutches. And at least 2 patients have relatives accompanying them. Are you counting? That makes 17 people is a room designed for 2. And outside that room, another 100 waiting to get help.
All that was survivable for a while. However, with the increase in demand for services came even more people, and their families. Remember we are mostly treating the elderly, and the disabled. Also, we now have MDR TB. So the overcrowding made the risk of Hospital spread of TB a possibility. To say nothing of the difficulties with the consultations: How can health workers respect client’s confidentiality rights in such circumstances? And the noise of so many people at once in this tiny space! To make matters worse, there was not even 1 square foot of space available for the new equipment we needed.
While all this is addressed by the WHO and Ministry of Health document, called Vision 2020, which amongst other areas, lists the infrastructure needs of eye clinics. This is a concern my colleagues at Mbabane Government Hospital share with us, and together we have agreed to minimum standards for eye clinics. Fortunately, the theatre and ward are up-to-date and we had no need to upgrade these. But what to do about the cramped clinic? We are only a little department at GSH, and neither our department nor the management had the resources to build anything. We seemed destined to offer our clients a second rate service in the clinic, with no hope of reaching our dreams to provide Diabetic eye services.
So I expressed my frustration to a Canadian visitor from Christian Blind Mission, who is in fact the CEO of that organisation in Canada. He said: “Jono. You are known as a dreamer and you have always told me that you dream too much. Now I’m giving you permission that you should dream. And dream big.”
His Majesty’s call for 2022 vision was ringing in my ears. So with my colleagues here, we started praying to our Heavenly Father about that dream: of a new clinic that would be big enough for expansion over the next 20 years, would be efficient for both patients and staff, would restore dignity to our clients, should offer a diabetic centre (because that is the next big need), that would have electronic patient records with access to the latest imaging techniques, that would provide cool and TB-free air, that would be environmentally friendly by being water and electricity sparing, and that would even look beautiful! Would that the Lord who loves His people in Eswatini, provide such an impossible miracle?
And so we began to pray for such a miracle. It is a testimony of faith in Him and His ways that He heard our calls. Good Shepherd is fortunate to have a partnership agreement in place, for 20 years, with this generous organisation called Christian Blind Mission International. They have supported blindness work here, and at Mbabane Government, and for many years at St Josephs School. CBM made application on our behalf to the German Government Development agency called BMZ who finally gave the grant for this project. Can you imagine our excitement! In the meanwhile, the hospital management took our dream to the Diocese and the Bishop agreed to this expansion. The Ministry of Health gave their support. We thank God for sending us Steve Hall and his team, architects who would take our ideas into reality. Mkhandlo Contractors and their sub-contractors erected these 2 buildings. Steve Hall and Saneliso Ncube gave so much more than money could buy! And this project injected over E6 million into the local economy. And this was made possible by the Hospital Management committee and Board who were patient with us when bad things happened like the power cables were damaged! The CEO Mrs Dumsile Simelane has been a human foundation upon which this building has been built. But the concrete that held this all together is the project development team in the eye department, especially Angela Warbreck. She had no idea that in her career she would be doing something like this! For her, this has taken much personal sacrifice, even her own health at times. But she and the others in my team have worked hard, sometimes through the night, and for nearly 2 years. Would you please join me in remembering all these magnificent people!
And here it stands: 2 buildings. The larger building is the Eye outpatients where examinations can happen. The smaller building is the Diabetic and Laser building with place for teaching nurses and doctors about Opthalmology and some administration offices. Inside those wall there is a vibrant Public Private Partnership with CBM, that offers ever improving care to people of all means and from all over the region. You will see blind people stumbling into those buildings, and walk out with vision and dignity restored! I hope you agree that we have indeed made His majesty’s dream of Vision 2022 a reality, right here!
Lastly, I would like to thank those who encouraged me to Dream, and to the One who gives the Dreams, who is with us today and to whose glory we bear testimony today.