Hampton Roads clinics offering free eye surgery for those in need

Virginia Eye Consultants and Tidewater Eye Centers will provide free cataract removal surgeries to area residents in need later this year.

It’s part of an annual program that’s helped between 300 and 400 people regain their vision since its launch in 2013, according to Tami Burke of Virginia Eye Consultants.

“The goal of the program is to help someone regain their independence,” she said.

A cataract is when and they can be debilitating, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Surgeries can cost between $3,000 and $7,000, according to Burke.

“If you’re in a situation where you’ve lost your job or don’t have insurance for any number of reasons, say you might be homeless; if you can regain your sight, you can regain your independence,” Burke said. “So you can do things you couldn’t do before and maybe get back into the workforce.”

Since the surgeries are free, those receiving them must be named in writing or electronic forms, according to Burke. Nominations can and have come from anywhere, including homeless shelters, and individuals can nominate themselves or their family members can nominate them, she said.

The program requires appointments and reviews to ensure that those who receive the surgery are those who might not otherwise get the surgery and that the results of the procedure would have a “substantial effect” on their lives, according to Burke.

The program started nearly 10 years ago, Burke said. In 2013 and subsequent years, they performed about 50 free eye surgeries, but in recent years demand has dwindled, she said.

Surgeries for those chosen are usually scheduled for the fall, according to Burke.

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