On the move with a clear view to fighting eye disease

By Stephen Fitzpatrick – Indigenous Affairs Editor, The Australian on August 8, 2016

An innovative health service targeting indigenous eye disease and diabetes at remote sites across Queensland has notched up more than 100 visits in just over two years, treating thousands at risk.

The non-profit Indigenous Diabetes Eyes and Screening Van program enlists the volunteer services of ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists aboard a million-dollar, custom-designed mobile clinic that has travelled 160,000km since March 2014.

Working with Aboriginal medical services in locations as far-flung as Cairns in the far north, Mount Isa and Longreach in the state’s centre and Palm Island off the coast of Townsville, the program also operates with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Patients are screened at their local medical centres with equipment provided by the service, with the images analysed in Sydney.  Chief executive Lyndall De Marco said 18,000 of these images had been graded, resulting in 2000 patients referred to the van for bulk-billed treatment as the van visits 16 communities.  Of these, 54 patients have received cataract surgery.

Ophthalmologist Rowan Porter, who joins the service from Brisbane when he can, said the breakthrough technology was often out of reach for indigenous people.  “We try and visit places every one to two months, and bring the best equipment – usually only available in the city – to the bush,” he said.

The visits mean patients such as Charlie Waters have access to specialists such as Dr Porter.

“It’s about overcoming barriers to accessing the health system that apply to indigenous people and giving equity of medical services to everyone,” Dr Porter said.


Comments are closed.