PURPOSE. To establish a sustainable eyecare program over 5 years to reduce the prevalence of preventable blindness and low vision in East Timor. METHOD. Since independence in East Timor, health services have been provided by visiting NGOs. It is essential therefore that a self-sustaining health service is established nationally. Focussing on 3 components: curative services, training, and systems/infrastructure, an Australian team are now providing the only eyecare services in East Timor. ETEP aims to: identify and train East Timorese personnel at all levels including primary eyecare, refraction, ophthalmic nursing, external eye examination, and paediatric conditions; provide resources for primary eyecare, refraction and surgical training; conduct community eye health education programs; and assist local authorities to implement a vision screening program for school children.
RESULTS. Eye health will become an integral part of the existing health services by building a system of primary eyecare comprising of general nursing staff able to screen, treat minor eye conditions and refer appropriately to secondary care. A pilot training program for 12 general health nurses from district health posts will commence shortly. Personnel will also be trained to staff the referral posts in each district, and these personnel will continue to work with the ETEP team in preparation of surgery lists, co-ordination of clinic days and post-operative care.
CONCLUSIONS. ETEP is the first step in capacity building and self-sustaining local eyecare for East Timor.