A year after the Lions Outback Vision Van (LOVV) set out on its maiden journey to rural and remote West Australians, it appears to be delivering on its goal and leading to greater equity of access to specialist eye health services for regional and remote Western Australians. (The maiden voyage was covered in the April 2016 Partyline.)
The vision van has travelled 19,887 kilometres, visited 16 communities and provided 1,876 specialist consultations. While along the way, those that work on the van have seen Australia from a different perspective. It’s either hot and sweaty up north or bone-chilling cold down south. Travelling to either end of Western Australia reveals just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country. Those who work on the van are privileged to be providing specialist eye care to people living in rural and remote locations who are disadvantaged in their health care and outcomes because of where they live.
The LOVV has worked closely with Community Clinics and Aboriginal Medical Service sites and has integrated with existing health facilities where larger surgical procedures, such as cataract extraction, have been required.
The Vision Van is an important link in a chain of services being continually developed by Lions Outback Vision to build local capacity in eye health. Other priorities are: visiting optometry; tele-ophthalmology; building stronger connections between GPs, Aboriginal Medical Services, Aboriginal liaison officers and health workers; robust screening programs for diabetic retinopathy; and the identification of local ‘eye champions’ to spread the word about caring for your eyes.
The team on the Van - an ophthalmologist, Fellow, resident doctor and nurse - complete visual acuity testing and other imaging investigations, diagnosis and assessments for cataracts and glaucoma, pterygium, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and trachoma. Where necessary, treatment for these conditions can be provided immediately, such as laser therapy for diabetic eye disease.
McCusker Director Lions Outback Vision, Dr Angus Turner, says:
“While most vision loss can be corrected overnight, 35 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have never had an eye examination. The Vision Van is a unique new service model that delivers ophthalmology clinic-based care for all major eye conditions close to where people live.”
The van has visited Kalgoorlie, Leonora, Wiluna, Newman, Port Hedland, Onslow, Roebourne, Karratha, Broome, Derby, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Kununurra, Albany, Katanning and Esperance, spending between one and five days in each location depending on need. In 2017 Meekatharra, Wyndham and Warmun have been added to the schedule.
The Vision Van completes two circuits each year which means the driver is on the road for up to four months at a time. The resident doctors and Fellow complete one month rotations and are joined by an ophthalmologist for up to five days each.
The Lions Outback Vision Van is the first mobile clinic in Western Australia to showcase the protocols and principles developed by the Aboriginal Health Council (WA) for outback service delivery in Indigenous communities. Importantly, the Vision Van can be accessed by all those who live in rural or remote Western Australia, provided they have a referral from their optometrist or local GP.