Eye Health Van Brings Sight to Regional Communities

Preventable blindness and other eye conditions are being tackled head on in regional and remote WA, with a mobile eye health van seeing more than 1200 patients in its first six months.

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has partnered with the Lions Eye Institute to run a pilot project to test the procedures and protocols for delivering mobile health services across WA.

The Community Compact project seeks to detail how services are currently being delivered, the extent to which mobile services are meeting need and identify any barriers to delivering services efficiently.

Since its launch in March, the Lions Outback Vision Van has visited 15 regional communities, including Kalgoorlie, Leonora, Wiluna, Albany, Newman, Roebourne, Karratha, Port Hedland, Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Katanning and Onslow.

To the end of August, staff had provided 1213 consultations, with almost half the patients Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders.

“The mobile eye health service is a game-changer for regional and remote Western Australia, particularly for Aboriginal patients,” said AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox.

“There are hundreds of Aboriginal people in regional and remote WA who are suffering from preventable eye conditions every day because they don’t have access to appropriate services.

“Now, services are being brought to them, which means they no longer have to travel vast distances to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist.”

The Van is staffed by eye health specialists and has the capacity to treat 200 patients a week for a range of eye conditions including cataracts, refractive error, trachoma, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Ms Nelson-Cox said Lions staff liaised directly with 10 of AHCWA’s member services around the state to coordinate visits and the referral of patients.

“Treating these patients on their own country, in a culturally appropriate way, is life changing for some people,” said Ms Nelson-Cox.

“The Van has the potential to reduce the rates of preventable blindness and vision loss in regional WA.”

The Van is expected to cover about 24,000 kilometres a year, and has travelled 13,650 kilometres since its launch in March.

So far this month, the Van has visited Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Kununurra.

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