Campaign aims to raise $25 million to fight eye disease

Mr Dick Lim (right) talking to Mr Chan Chun Choy at the launch of the VisionSave campaign on July 19, 2016.
Mr Dick Lim (right) talking to Mr Chan Chun Choy at the launch of the VisionSave campaign on July 19, 2016. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Until recently, former electrician Chan Chun Choy suffered a cataract, glaucoma and blurred vision - conditions which could have led to him going blind.

The 73-year-old's sight improved thanks to two operations paid for by the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) as part of a clinical trial - but he wold not have been able to afford the tens of thousands they would have cost on his own.

Mr Chan, a retiree, said: "Before the surgery, everything was a blur even when I wore spectacles. After the surgery my eyesight became OK. I don't even have to put in eye drops."

To fight the rise in eye diseases that can lead to blindness, SNEC and SERI on Tuesday (July 19) launched a campaign to raise $25 million by 2020.

VisionSave campaign was announced Singapore General Hospital with plans that include providing financial assistance for cutting-edge eye therapies and surgeries.

By the year 2030, the number of blind and visually impaired people worldwide is expected to double.

"Vision is something that we always take for granted," said SNEC medical director, Professor Wong Tien Yin. "Loss of vision and eye diseases have a profound impact on an individual's quality of life.

"Now in Singapore we are facing a perfect storm. We are living longer, our vision is becoming more important. Losing vision is no longer acceptable as part of ageing itself."

Singapore is facing a rising number of people with eye diseases as the population ages. Already, one in 10 adults have diabetes and are at risk of going blind.

Eye diseases that threaten eyesight may involve experimental or advanced surgery that come with a heavy price tag.

Yet many cannot afford the treatments to cure eye diseases. "Many of these treatments are costly and may be out of reach for many patients who may benefit from them," said SNEC's director of philanthropy Ho Ching Lin.

The programme plans to raise the funds through donations from individuals and corporations.

To qualify for the assistance, patients must have difficulties affording medical cost despite heavy medical subsidies, Medishield and Medisave.

There is no age limit to qualify for the assistance.