Sailors’ Society, one of the largest seafarer support charities operating internationally, is funding free sight and hearing tests for seafarers in India.
Seafarers often struggle to leave the port and so cannot easily access healthcare or other facilities. The new testing equipment at the Seafarers’ Home Kandla brings healthcare to the seafarer. Regular examination can identify issues before they have the chance to develop and have a serious impact on seafarers’ health.
Sandra Welch, Sailors’ Society’s director of programme, said: “The welfare of seafarers is our top priority. Seafarers visiting Kandla often cannot get out of the port to access healthcare services, so we’re bringing it to them. Testing is totally free of charge and the facilities also support our wider Wellness at Sea programme by proactively seeking to improve seafarers’ physical health and well-being.”
The new equipment detects the five major ailments that lead to 90% of blindness – diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, cornea problems and refractive errors. A report is generated within five minutes of the screening process. Data and photos are then emailed directly to a local eye surgeon who issues medical advice and support as appropriate. Similarly, the ear tests are efficient and unobtrusive.
More than 125 seafarers have already had their eyes tested and the ear testing equipment was installed at the centre this week (25 January). The machines add to the already excellent facilities provided at the centre, which include a fully staffed medical centre, free internet and hairdressing.
Administrator and treasurer of Kandla Seafarers’ Welfare Association, Joseph Chacko, said: “Seafarers experience rough conditions at sea and in ports and their eyes can be damaged by the chemicals or hazardous cargoes being transported. The testing will help seafarers to protect their eyes and prevent any further deterioration, which is vital for their job and livelihood.”
In the past month, eye tests have detected six seafarers suffering from age-related macular degeneration and one case of glaucoma.
Sailors’ Society and Kandla Seafarers’ Welfare Association plan to roll out the project further by holding free eye testing sessions in the nearby villages where seafarers and their families are located.