The shortage of ophthalmologists (eye doctors) at district level makes it difficult to achieve the aim of reducing the rate of blindness to less than 0.3 percent of the population by 2020.

The assessment was made by Associate Professor Do Nhu Hon, deputy head of the National Steering Committee for Prevention and Control of Blindness and director of the National Ophthalmology Hospital on November 21.

The latest statistics show that more than 400,000 people in Vietnam are blind in two eyes, and 2 million others are in one eye.

Causes of the blindness include cataracts, glaucoma, trachoma and other refractory diseases.

Another 3 million children aged under 15 have refractory diseases, which can led to blindness if not properly treated.

More than 30 per cent of blind people do not know that their disease could have been prevented or cured, They also did not know where to seek treatment.

Vietnam has nearly 1,600 ophthalmologic doctors working in State and private hospitals.

"This is sufficient, however, the problem is that they are congregated in big provinces and cities," said Hon.

During the past two years, the ophthalmologic universities and schools have trained more than 200 specialised doctors and 130 masters. However, most of them refuse to work at district level or in poor areas.

Some provinces, such as Kon Tum and Gia Lai in the Central Highlands, have only three eye doctors. The central province of Quang Nam has 1.5 million people, but only five eye doctors.

Nguyen Hong Mai, a doctor at the National Ophthalmology Hospital, said that she did not want to work at a district hospital as it lacked equipment for eye check-ups and treatment.

"If I worked there for several years, a lot of my knowledge would be lost as I would not have an opportunity to apply it," she said.

Mai said that if the State wanted to attract eye doctors to work in district hospitals, it should invest in equipment so that the doctors can do their job properly.-VNA