For the advancement of Taiwan’s corneal transplant technique and ensuring that the National Eye Bank’s operations keep up with international standards, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHW), National Eye Bank of Taiwan, and SightLife signed a memorandum of cooperation this morning (November 7). The signing of this memorandum will mean the commencement of five years of close cooperation. SightLife will help the National Eye Bank of Taiwan acquire international certification, provide corneas for research purposes, and offer professional training for the staff of the Eye Bank. This will benefit the people of Taiwan by improving cornea handling and preservation techniques and transplant quality in Taiwan, and help the National Eye Bank of Taiwan in its goal of becoming the Center of Excellence for Eye Banks of Asia.
To enhance organ transplant quality, the MoHW commissioned National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) to create a plan to establish the “National Eye Bank of Taiwan” in 2013, and foreign experiences and models of instituting national eye banks were referenced. The National Eye Bank headquarters is located at NTUH, while the Southern Region Office is located at National Cheng Kung University Hospital. Its major duties include conducting corneal examinations nationwide; developing dedicated technicians; and formulating standard operational procedures for donating, removing, examining, preserving, and transporting corneas. Through four years of dedicated effort by the National Eye Bank of Taiwan, not only has the quality of donated corneas greatly improved, the quantity of cornea donation has also significantly increased, from 224 in 2012 to 397 in 2015, and the number of corneas donated from January to October 2016 has reached 385. In the past, a majority (56%) of the corneas in Taiwan were imported, but domestic donation became the majority (54%) from 2015 onwards.
SightLife is an internationally renowned non-profit health organization, and its headquarters is located in Seattle, Washington. The organization is dedicated to eradicating blindness caused by corneal diseases. Apart from providing the largest number of the highest quality corneas for many countries, it has also helped many of countries in establishing their eye banks and acquiring international certification for the eye banks. It has also provided these countries with corneas for research purposes and gave assistance in training their eye bank technicians in cornea stratification and other techniques. On average, the organization helps over 50 adults or children get corneal transplants every day. It has partners in dozens of countries worldwide, including 19 local eye banks. From 2014 to date, the organization has trained 73 surgeons. SightLife has undoubtedly made significant contributions to the quality and operation of eye banks around the world.
Minister Lin Tzou-yien of MoHW thanked Professor Hu Fung-rong, Director of the National Eye Bank for her assistance and effort in carrying out various tasks of the Eye Bank, and expressed gratitude to Ms. Claire Bonilla, Chief Global Officer of SightLife for coming a long way to establish the partnership. In the future, Taiwan will designate people to receive training from the organization, and SightLife will send officers to Taiwan to help the National Eye Bank get international certification. It is expected that five years of close cooperation will make the National Eye Bank of Taiwan a dedicated institution for training eye bank professionals in the Greater China Region and a leader in Asian eye bank organizations, allowing it to exhibit Taiwan’s professional strength in the health and medical care field and contribute its professional strength to the international world.