Many of the Save Sight Institute’s people, including Director Professor Peter McCluskey, are involved in a new outreach service which recently won a Top End Health Service Quality Award for ‘Improving Elective Surgery Access’.
The Top End Outreach Ophthalmology Resources Project is an initiative of the Top End Health Service and the Fred Hollows Foundation. Registrars from Sydney Eye Hospital attend outreach clinics in rural and remote communities across the Top End and refer patients to the Royal Darwin Hospital for Consultants to diagnose and manage the more complex patients.
The Northern Territory’s population (2009 ABS) is 224,800 with 44% of Territorians living in remote or very remote areas compared to 2% Australia-wide. Aboriginal people make up 30.4% of the NT population, with 70% of Aboriginal people living in remote or very remote communities*.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 40 suffer six times the rates of blindness than non-Indigenous Australians, with 94% of vision loss being preventable or treatable.
Factors such as remoteness, economic disadvantage, a lack of transport and a lack of access to health services prevent the prompt identification, management and treatment of eye health problems**.
This new Outreach Ophthalmology Model has increased access to eye health services and helped to streamline the patient journey, resulting in improved visual outcomes for Aboriginal people in the Top End.
Based on data provided by the outreach team, Katherine Hospital purchased a new OCT machine and The Fred Hollows Foundation generously donated a new OCT machine and IOL Master to the Royal Darwin Hospital, enabling the existing equipment in Darwin to be sent to Gove Hospital. This represents significant savings in patient travel and will reduce the number of patients not attending their appointments, as patients are now able to travel to their regional hospital, with only the most complex and urgent cases referred to Darwin for subspecialty review.
In 2015 the project assisted 1,539 patients with 137 eye surgeries conducted at Katherine Hospital and Gove District Hospital. A total of 33 communities were visited and there were 68 Outreach Clinics conducted.
According to Professor McCluskey “We are very proud to be associated with this outreach ophthalmology service, which develops stronger linkages between urban ophthalmologists and rural and remote primary health care providers across the Top End.”
* Based on 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
** The Eye Health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Report, May 2011 – based on findings from the 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey).