Eye on the prize

DUBBO has acquired its first public ophthalmology clinic as part of a vision to provide specialist eye care to the state’s most disadvantaged residents.

The Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) and NSW Health have joined forces in launching the new clinic that aims to improve access to eye health services and reduce lengthy public waiting lists for ophthalmological surgery.

IRIS Taskforce chairman, ophthalmologist Dr Mark Loane AM, has welcomed the partnership resulting in the purchase of equipment and the initial establishment of the clinic at 147 Bourke Street.

He has also indicated acute need for the clinic and its ability to change lives.

“Dubbo presented as a region with particular need with the largest concentration of Indigenous people in NSW,” Dr Loane said.

“The Aboriginal population in this region also has a greater exposure to risk factors causing eye diseases than the general population.

“Despite this, Indigenous patients have been underrepresented in surgery for preventable and treatable eye-health conditions, including cataract surgery.”

The clinic opened late last week under the direction of a group of visiting ophthalmologists.

Federal funding provided to IRIS is covering their travel expenses and providing support staff at the clinic.

IRIS is a joint national initiative of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) and the federal government.

The service’s funding is provided to the ASO by the federal government through the Department of Health and Ageing, Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program - Eye Health Teams for Rural Australia. 

Equipment is funded by the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

Dr Loane has paid tribute to the support received by IRIS in establishing the clinic.

“IRIS cannot operate in isolation and this project would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and support of the NSW Ministry of Health, the Public Ophthalmology Eye Clinic, the Rural Doctors Network, the Dubbo Health Service and the Western NSW Local Health District,” he said.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the clinic was a “leap forward” in eye health care for Aboriginal people in the Dubbo region.

“NSW Health has partnered with IRIS to purchase $250,000 worth of specialised ophthalmological equipment for the new clinic in Dubbo,” she said.

Dubbo MP Troy Grant has welcomed specialist services “closer to home”.

The clinic moves to Dubbo Base Hospital when its stage one and two redevelopment is complete.

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