Don’t be blinded by diabetes

Outreach IMPACT magazine, Issue 3, November 2016

The IDEAS Initiative launched on 10 December 2013, following a $5 million Queensland Health donation to the Diamond Jubilee Partnership, as part of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. The request was for an innovative project to substantially reduce blindness and visual impairment amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes.

With this funding, a mobile ophthalmic treatment centre, the IDEAS Van, was created with a visiting rural and remote eye specialist service. A statewide retinal screening and grading program and online telehealth endocrinology consultancy established.

Lyndall De Marco, CEO of the IDEAS project states, “The initiative aims to close the health gap for rural and remote communities by providing access to gold standard specialist services in the familiar surrounds of their own community. We try and work closely with existing Rural Outreach Health programs and with those involved in the delivery of health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland where good work is already being done to close the health gap”.

The IDEAS Van is a state-of-the- art ophthalmic treatment centre staffed by local and visiting ophthalmologist, optometrists and orthoptists. The Van consists of three treatment rooms; two that are licensed for laser treatment.

The equipment is the latest available which means a patient can receive the same treatment as they would in a city ophthalmology surgery. All treatments are bulk billed and the thirty-seven eye care professionals donate their time. Since 2014, 2,200 patients have been treated on the IDEAS Van.
The IDEAS Van travels to thirteen regional sites around Queensland. CheckUP’s support, through the Rural Health Outreach Fund and the Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program, supports clinics in Rockhampton, Mount Isa, Palm Island, Cherbourg, Charleville and Cunnamulla.

The IDEAS Van visits each site every four or eight weeks, with some sites having greater intervals depending on the needs of the community. The IDEAS Van spends one day serving as an “annexe” to the Aboriginal Medical Service. Up to thirty patients are seen in one day in one of the three treatment rooms. The host Aboriginal Medical Service takes full responsibility for clinic management and transport of patients. One hundred and twelve clinics have been conducted so far.

Access to the IDEAS Van is by GP referral from the local Aboriginal Medical Service. Patients have a retinal screen with the non­mydriatic camera. The images are sent to Professor Paul Mitchell at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital to be graded.

Based on the grading report, an appointment is scheduled for further investigation or treatment on the IDEAS Van. A partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service expands the scope of this Initiative to ensure that all diabetes patients have an annual retinal scan and those over 40 years of age will be screened as part of their annual health check. To date 3,747 patients, have been screened for diabetic retinopathy.

This initiative is managed by Diamond Jubilee Partnerships Ltd Board of Directors and the IDEAS Team. A robust partnership between the following partners provides a wealth of expertise and resources – Queensland Eye Institute, Diabetes Queensland, CheckUP, Princess Alexandra Hospital Diabetes
and Endocrinology Department, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Optometrist Association Australia, UQ Centre for Online Health, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Corporate partners such as Volvo, Kurtz, Ellex, Device Technologies, JJ Richards, Minter Ellison, BDO, Crowe Howarth and Traymark have provided valuable support to ensure that this initiative continues to be sustainable for the future.

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