Vision van funds a real eye-opener
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.