Dr. Sondheimer travelled to Panama City Panama from July 7th to 12th in 2015 as part of a humanitarian mission to perform cataract surgery on patients who would otherwise stay blind. The mission was sponsored by SEE International of Santa Barbara and the Panamanian Kiwanis Club. 102 cataract surgeries were performed over 2 days by Dr. Sondheimer, Dr. Ruben Orillac of Panama City, Dr. Ernesto Calvo, of Panama City and other Panamanian Ophthalmologists. The patients were not charged for the surgeries.
Panama is a country of 4 million people. There is a public and social security healthcare system, but the 26 government doctors only perform 1 cataract surgery per week, have limited office hours, and have limited clinic examination openings. They maintain waiting lists of one to two years for patients to get cataract surgery. The public and social security systems don’t contract with private physicians to reduce the backlog of patients needing cataract surgery.
Most of the patients had very advanced cataracts that were debilitating.