Vi­sion van funds a real eye-opener

Pilbara News - - News - Court­ney Fowler

The Abo­rig­i­nal Health Coun­cil of WA has wel­comed $4 mil­lion in State Gov­ern­ment fund­ing to bring an eye health clinic to the Pil­bara and other re­gional ar­eas.

The mo­bile clinic is the re­sult of work by AHCWA and the Lions Eye In­sti­tute to de­velop pro­to­cols to de­liver ser­vices to Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

The van will pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive op­tom­e­try and oph­thal­mol­ogy care for con­di­tions in­clud­ing cataracts, re­frac­tive er­ror, tra­choma, glau­coma and di­a­betic retinopa­thy. AHCWA chair­woman Michelle Nel­son-Cox said the op­por­tu­nity for Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity-con­trolled health ser­vices across WA to work in con­junc­tion with the mo­bile clinic would en­sure the best de­liv­ery of ser­vices to Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

“Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in re­mote ar­eas of­ten have lim­ited ac­cess to spe­cial­ist med­i­cal ser­vices, in­clud­ing oph­thal­mol­o­gists,” she said.

“Pre­ventable blind­ness and vi­sion loss are a big is­sue for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple and we hope this new mo­bile eye health clinic will en­sure that more peo­ple get bet­ter ac­cess to the med­i­cal help they need.

“We are very pleased that there will now be a ser­vice that brings eye spe­cial­ists to Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, rather than them hav­ing to travel vast dis­tances to get to an ap­point­ment with an oph­thal­mol­o­gist.”

Health Min­is­ter Kim Hames said in ad­di­tion to $1.9 mil­lion in funds from Lot­tery­west, the WA Health Depart­ment had com­mit­ted $2 mil­lion over five years to the Lions Eye In­sti­tute to fund equip­ment, fit-out and run­ning costs of the Lions Out­back Vi­sion Van.

“The whole con­cept is ter­rific be­cause it means we can reach out to peo­ple liv­ing in re­gional and re­mote WA and help in the elim­i­na­tion of pre­ventable blind­ness and vi­sion loss,” he said.

“Eye spe­cial­ist cov­er­age is up to 19 times lower in re­mote WA than in ur­ban ar­eas and ru­ral res­i­dents are three times less likely to have seen an oph­thal­mol­o­gist.

“This ser­vice will help in re­duc­ing this in­equity for both Abo­rig­i­nal and non-Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.”

The van will visit towns across re­gional WA, in­clud­ing Roe­bourne, Kar­ratha, Port Hed­land, New­man, Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Cross­ing, Halls Creek, Ku­nunurra and Carnar­von. When com­plete, the van will travel more than 24,000km a year and will have the ca­pac­ity to treat 200 pa­tients a week.

It will op­er­ate for a min­i­mum of 10 months a year and ser­vice 16 re­gional cen­tres from Ku­nunurra to Albany.

The min­is­ter said the ser­vice was ex­pected to com­ple­ment ex­ist­ing ser­vice pro­vi­sion and re­duce pres­sure on clinic spa­ces.

He said the fund­ing would also help the in­sti­tute with fur­ther eye health re­search and eval­u­a­tion as part of the pro­gram.

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