More than 5000 at risk of go­ing blind

The Southland Times - - FRONT PAGE - CATE BROUGHTON Opin­ion World Weather Food Busi­ness Puz­zles TV

A back­log of more than 5000 pa­tients deemed ‘‘at risk’’ of go­ing blind were wait­ing for spe­cial­ist treat­ment in pub­lic hos­pi­tals in Fe­bru­ary this year, the Min­istry of Health says.

The in­for­ma­tion has been re­leased fol­low­ing a damn­ing Health and Dis­abil­ity Com­mis­sion re­port on the case of Gore farmer Koby Brown, who lost sight in one eye af­ter wait­ing a year to see a spe­cial­ist.

Min­istry of Health chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Dr An­drew Simp­son said district health boards had re­duced the num­ber of pa­tients in the ‘‘at risk’’ cat­e­gory from 10,223 in May 2017 to 5028 by the end of Fe­bru­ary 2018.

‘‘District health board ac­tiv­ity to sup­port im­proved eye health and back­log re­duc­tion con­tin­ues and is be­ing re­ported monthly to the min­istry,’’ Simp­son said.

Brown said he was ‘‘pretty an­gry’’ when a doc­tor told him he was blind in one eye af­ter his ap­point­ment hap­pened six months late. ‘‘I wasn’t happy, I can as­sure you of that.’’

Brown was 20 years old when he was di­ag­nosed with glau­coma by an oph­thal- mol­o­gist on Septem­ber 16, 2014, and told he would need to be seen again six months later.

Af­ter three phone calls and suf­fer­ing pain ‘‘like get­ting poked in the eye by a nee­dle’’, Brown was fi­nally given a fol­low-up ap­point­ment on Septem­ber 9 the fol­low­ing year. But by then it was too late. The oph­thal­mol­o­gist was in tears as he broke the news, Brown said.

‘‘I think he found it pretty bad as well ... it wasn’t him that stuffed up, it was the sys­tem and he was the one that had to deal with it.’’

The com­mis­sion found that Brown did not get a timely ap­point­ment as the Southern DHB did not pri­ori­tise them based on clin­i­cal needs.

Con­cerns about the lack of ca­pac­ity at the DHB’s oph­thal­mol­ogy ser­vice were not acted on, even af­ter an ear­lier se­ri­ous event re­view.

KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF

Mataura farmer Kobe Brown lost the vi­sion in his right eye in Septem­ber 2015 af­ter wait­ing a year for a fol­low-up ap­point­ment.

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