Dr Sims is currently on Rarotonga with other eye specialists such as optometrists (eye examiners), nurses and surgeons for more than a week now, holding eye checks and performing operations and laser treatment on diabetic and cataract patients.
Being a diabetes eye specialist from New Zealand, Dr Sims said so far they have checked more than 250 diabetic patients and over the years they have performed around 50 laser treatments per annual visit.
She said since her visit to Rarotonga from the time she began her practical work she has seen a lot of changes.
“A lot of people are motivated to look after their health and are well supported by the medical team here. It is good,” Dr Sims said.
She said compared to cataract patients, diabetes is the bigger change as there are a number of people who have diabetes on the island but have managed to look after their health.
“Most cases have not affected the eyes, each year we end up doing 50 laser treatments and seen that a majority are doing well and are healthy. But definitely the biggest changes are people being more aware of their own health and being more proactive, looking after their life style of diets.
“We like to see as many people with diabetes as we can, the majority that we see are actually doing well and have a good control of their eyes.
“Unfortunately, every year we would see at least few people who would only present their diabetic eye disease when they have already lost vision, we can still save what we can, but it is a missed opportunity, just too late.
“So it would be great to see more people and get people engaged to an earlier stage when they are still doing well and not when they are experiencing any trouble.”
Dr Sims said for cataract patients, they have performed 60 operations already. The surgical team is led by Dr Paul Rosser.
She said the optometrist team who arrived on the island before them have been to the Northern Island group and Aitutaki to work out who would be brought to Rarotonga for surgery. Around 20-30 people have been brought to the main island.
She said for the cataract cases, nothing has changed in Rarotonga, it is largely due to age and diabetes doesn’t influence this.
“We will always be seeing people getting old and developing that. It is important for people to stay engaged with nurses and doctors, important to have general health checks and remember that prevention is always better than relying on treatment.”
The team is here for another week and people are encouraged to visit the Rarotonga Hospital for an early eye check-up.