A new specialist eye clinic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients has opened in Fitzroy as a partnership between The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS). This full service clinic is the first of its kind in a community controlled organisation in Australia.
This is a significant and practical step forward in closing the gap for Aboriginal patients who need specialist eye health care. The Eye and Ear and VAHS have collaborated closely to provide a service that the patients want and a model of care that suits the patients’ needs.
The clinic aims to address the existing and growing demand for specialist eye care among the community by providing service for both paediatric and adults patients in a culturally safe environment.
Gwen Craigie, an Aboriginal Elder, was one of the first patients to be seen at the new eye clinic. For Gwen, eye problems have been a recurring issue for many years and after having her eyes assessed at VAHS, she was able to undergo cataract surgery at the Eye and Ear Hospital and attend her post surgery follow up sessions at VAHS.
Being able to be assessed in a timely manner has meant Gwen has been able to again enjoy day to day activities.
“The next day after my surgery, the nurse called to check up on me and asked me to check my vision. I’d always have to get my granddaughter to read what was on the screen as I could never see the TV guide, but when I turned the TV on, I couldn’t believe how clear it was”.
“It is absolutely fabulous” said Gwen. “It was all worth it”.
The clinic has state of the art equipment, which was made possible by a generous grant from the Victorian State Government. This has allowed for gold standard ophthalmology care so that the service can include injection and laser treatment for serious and ongoing eye conditions.
The clinic builds on the success of the Healthy Ears clinic, another partnership between the Eye and Ear and VAHS which provides ear care services for children.
VAHS CEO, Michael Graham noted “This is another meaningful partnership arrangement between a tertiary provider and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service which is key to increasing access to specialised services which support closing the health gap and addressing local access to the specific medical needs of the Victorian Aboriginal community.
Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr Rosie Dawkins is delighted with the quality of care that can be delivered. “This clinic is the first full service ophthalmology clinic within an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. The equipment is state of the art. But more importantly, the partnership between VAHS and The Eye and Ear, and the friendships we have developed during the process, will be an asset in delivering care to the community.”
The clinic will run fortnightly at the VAHS site in Fitzroy. The clinic will be staffed by Ophthalmologists and Orthoptists supported by Aboriginal Health Workers, who work as a team to target patients with eye disease.
The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) was established in 1973 to address the specific medical needs of Victorian Aboriginal communities. The organisation has expanded steadily over past 40 years to provide a comprehensive range of medical, dental and social services for our community.
About The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital
The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is Victoria’s leading provider of eye and ear health, integrating clinical care, research and education to optimise innovation and provide advanced treatments for vision and hearing loss. The Eye and Ear cares for around 220,000 patients a year.
About the prevalence of Aboriginal Eye Disease
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have higher incidences of eye disease and wait longer to access surgery than other Australians. 1 in 9 Indigenous Australians aged over 40 (11%) have vision impairment or blindness, nationwide. The leading causes of vision loss for Indigenous Australians include diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.