A group of Hong Kong eye surgeons are racing against time to combat the rapid growth of cataract-related blindness on the mainland brought about by delayed treatment.
About 6.7 million mainlanders have been blinded by cataracts, while the rate in Hong Kong is zero, according to Dr Chow Pak-chin, vice-chairman of Project Vision. The Hong Kong-based charity sets up eye-care centres on the mainland to consult and train local doctors.
Chow said only a handful Hong Kong doctors visited the eye-care centres, including himself and Dennis Lam Shun-chiu, founder and chairman of Project Vision.
"In Hong Kong, our patients would receive treatment long before they lost their eyesight, unlike on the mainland where people in rural areas have no access to medical treatment and cannot afford surgery," he said.
Only 910 of every million people on the mainland undergo cataract operations each year, a much lower rate than in India (3,500) and developed countries (6,000).
About 1.3 million new cataract-induced blindness cases emerge on the mainland every year. And about 80 per cent of those with cataract-induced blindness are from poor rural areas.
On Thursday, Project Vision opened its latest eye-care centre in Gansu province, the charity's 23rd outpost since it was set up in 2006. The group aims to build 100 centres by 2020 to train 1,000 eye doctors and carry out one million cataract surgeries by then.
So far, 82 mainland doctors have been trained and more than 80,000 cataract patients have had their sight saved as a result of the project.