You could say that refugee families in our community now have a better focus on their new home thanks to a one-day vision screening blitz at Hotel Dieu Hospital that provided eye care to more than 100 recently settled Syrian children and adults.
On Sunday, March 26, ten ophthalmologists and residents plus nine support staff were kept busy conducting vision exams and eyeglass checks on 110 children, parents and grandparents, with interpreters and settlement workers from Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) and KEYS Job Centre close at hand.
The patients were mostly government-sponsored Syrian refugees who have been in Canada for less than six months. Mustafa Abou Hajar, who attended the clinic with his wife and four of his five children, called the vision check-up “very valuable and very positive” and another example of how the Canadian government and our community have supported refugees.
The patients were seen in family units by the specialists. At the end of their eye exams, they received a form with a diagnosis and recommended management, if needed. That information will be shared with the person’s settlement worker to ensure proper follow-up occurs.
The screening blitz was the brainchild of pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Christine Law. Along with her clinic colleagues, she volunteered her time and services for the project and collaborated with Hotel Dieu, KHSC and KEYS to make the event possible.
“It can be very challenging to navigate around a new city when you don't know the language and possibly have vision difficulties too,” she explains. “The purpose behind our clinic was to provide thorough eye exams for all newcomers in the hopes of identifying and treating visual issues that could prevent them from fully succeeding in their new lives here.”
For Dr. Martin ten Hove, the special clinic was a welcome opportunity to work in partnership with the community to support the health of families making the transition to a new life. “We’re very proud of our physicians and staff who gladly volunteered part of their weekend for a very important cause,” says ten Hove, head of the department of ophthalmology at Hotel Dieu and Queen’s University, “and we especially thank Dr. Law for setting the project into motion. Seeing the smiling faces of these families was the perfect payback.”
Law says the clinic just seemed like the right thing to do: “I’m grateful we live in such an open, caring and giving city and country."