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Patient focused 
- dedicated to excellence

Vision Centre

Vietnam Vision Project

Marianne McCutcheon
Clinical Nurse
Vision Centre Day Surgery
November 2008

For the past 2 years I have been associated with The Vietnam Vision Project (VVP) performing cataract surgery on the under privileged people of rural Vietnam.

The members of the VVP fled the country in the 1970's and 1980's to escape war and persecution.  They arrived in Australia as refugees with nothing but the clothing they were wearing.  Over the years they studied and graduated from universities with degrees in medicine, engineering and business, but they never forgot their grass-roots and now fundraise together with Rotary International and return each year to Vietnam to provide cataract surgery to the poor.

To accomplish this goal requires enormous effort from all the people involved and it must be pointed out the work is all for charity and donated in their own time.  The team consists of a Project Manager, Operating Team, Optometrists, GP's, Dispensary, Admin Staff, Patient Transfer, Logistic Support, Video and Photography.

Liaising with the Vietnamese Government and local Hospital Representatives is a challenge within itself.  The Hospital Representatives are responsible for informing and recruiting patients, as well as preparing the local Hospital to accommodate the arrival for the VVP Team.

The criteria for patient selection are:

1. Operations will only be conducted for the poor and internally displaced without discrimination on the grounds of religion or ethnicity. 

2. Only blindness from cataracts and not from other eye conditions will be treated. 

3. Priority will be given to those living in rural areas. 

4.Priority shall be given to those who have not previously received assistance for cataract surgery.

This screening process is vitally important as the country has a population of 83 million and our service can only stretch so far.  Through fund raising and generous donations we purchase all our own stock to transport to Vietnam.  Many of the Hospitals have very little or no infrastructure for us to work with.  The ophthalmic companies eg. Alcon, Bausch & Lomb and many others support the program with great enthusiasm donating intra-ocular lenses, visco-elastic, drapes, drugs and much more.

When travelling and working in Vietnam we work with a team from the Saigon Eye Hospital in District 9.  These people are young dedicated Ophthalmologists and Operating Room Nurses who provide us with support and help us with translation.  It is great to be able to share our knowledge with them and they are so grateful.

The Operating Room in Vietnam is back to basics.  Very few products are disposable and some that are, are reused over and over until they are unrecognizable.  All drapes, gowns and equipment covers are fabric/cloth.  The autoclaves that I have experienced for wrapped articles are downward displacements and for "quick" cycles its boiling H2O tanks and the instruments get a quick dunk.  VVP now has 2 bench top autoclaves so we are able to keep the steady flow of sterilisation at a high standard for best outcome for our patients.

I was very fortunate this year to travel into Cambodia to operate there.  This was the first year VVP and Rotary had provided the service in that country.  It proved to be highly successful.  Over 2 days we did 91 phaco procedures and 9 extra-caps.  The team had the ability to do more, but our supplies were exhausted.

The team has successfully been providing cataract surgery in Vietnam for six years, however returning in 2009 could prove to be our most biggest challenge due to the global economical downturn.  The VVP has only been able to achieve successful results through the support of the individuals, community groups, organisations and companies.  The enormous supplies has given us encouragement and confidence to continue planning subsequent trips.

Marianne McCutcheon

More information:

Vietnam Vision Project Website -


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