Flying Eye Hospital Lands in Vietnam

August 2019

Our world-class Flying Eye Hospital has arrived in Hue, Vietnam, for a three-week teaching and training project working alongside the Ministry of Health and the Hue Eye Hospital.

The project marks the tenth time our Flying Eye Hospital has visited Vietnam since 2006. In the last 13 years more than 1500 patients have been examined on the aircraft, with nearly 800 adults and children receiving sight saving surgery on board the plane.

Of course, as the plane is primarily a teaching facility the real impact comes in those we train - around 1300 doctors, nurses and medical technicians have received training on board the plane from some of the best ophthalmologists, nurses and biomedical engineers in the world.

You can go to any remote part of the world, do a hundred surgeries, you help 100 patients which is good but it's not that good because there are millions of patients. What's good about Orbis is when we come here to teach, we handpick carefully selected physicians that have gaps in their knowledge and things that are currently not being provided for the local community. We come here, we spend a week, we teach the local physicians so they can continue forward with these techniques. That way we end up taking care of much more than 100 patients.

Dr Tim McCulley

Orbis Volunteer Faculty

Our Flying Eye Hospital supports our long-term eye health programs in Vietnam and is a vital part of our strategy – not only providing state-of-the art training equipment like the Collins Aerospace Mobile Simulation Centre – but also raising vital awareness with governments and ministries of health.

We actually began working in Vietnam as far back as 1996, ten years before the plane first touched down. By 2000 we’d help set up a number of long-term projects and by 2003 we’d established a permanent office in Hanoi. In 2018 alone our Vietnam team helped train 1750 eye health professionals, screen 200k children, prescribe 40k pairs of glasses and perform 9k eye surgeries.

Image gallery: The Flying Eye Hospital arrives at Hue International Airport

The plane touched down at Hue international airport on Friday in sweltering conditions, but this is something our team of expert volunteers are used to by now. Over the next three-weeks, 25 Volunteer Faculty from 12 countries will be sharing their skills with local eye teams – including eight from the US.

Sarah Yeoman – Communications Manager for our Flying Eye Hospital told us: "It’s hot and it’s humid, especially in the local hospitals which don’t have air con. So screening day gets a bit sticky. Fortunately the plane is a little cooler, but this is nothing our amazing volunteers aren’t used to. Most of them have been on several projects like this, and they know how important it is to battle through the conditions and make sure everyone gets the most out of their time”.

Week one – sponsored by OMEGA Watches - is now underway, with a focus on oculoplastics, glaucoma and retina. Screening day has just taken place where our teams of Volunteer Faculty found some strong test cases, which will allow local partners to get the most from watching and participating in the surgery.

Image gallery: Screening day at the Hue Eye Hospital

Surgery will take place in the plane’s Operating Room, where local teams will be able to ask questions in real-time from our on-board classroom. In addition to being broadcast in 3D in the plane's 42-seater classroom, the surgeries are also beamed around the world via our telehealth platform, Cybersight. This allows eye teams from all across the globe to watch and participate in real-time, expanding the impact of our work further than ever before.

There are 400,000 adults and 23,000 children in Vietnam who are blind - 75% of whom simply don't need to be. While blindness in Vietnam has decreased over the last decade, the country continues to struggle with providing eye care, especially in rural areas. Quality of care, training and human resources still remain problematic with only 15 ophthalmologists per million people.

But with the help of our supporters, partners and Volunteer Faculty we can help build a brighter future for Vietnam, and give generations to come the opportunity to see the world around them.

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