Happenings and events from the optometry divisions in Australia and New Zealand
The Annual General Meeting may seem rarely noteworthy, but the recent Victorian Division AGM saw some significant changes and new faces too. We welcomed the appointment of some new and enthusiastic optometrists to help govern and lead the organisation. They will do so not as Councillors, but as Board members, following changes to the Optometrist Association Victoria Constitution. The change from a Council to a Board of Directors will not alter much on a day to day basis, but is imperative in bringing the organisation up to date with good corporate governance, while emphasising the important role that Board members play in overseeing the affairs of the Association.
Unfortunately, we bid farewell to two outgoing Councillors who have made terrific contributions to the Association. Our long-serving Treasurer, Roger Walling, is moving on, while Rod Baker, former President and National Councillor, has also stepped down. Rod and Roger have both contributed enormous amounts to the Association during their terms and we thank them for this commitment.
Unfortunately, the time pressures that GPs face in daily practice, means that many of them exist in a sort of professional cocoon, often blissfully unaware of colleague health professionals who could lighten their load and help their patients
Our new Board Members are Stuart Aamodt, Kirily Bowen and Yota Yoshimitsu. Stuart works in private practices in the Melbourne CBD as well as the public clinic at the Victorian College of Optometry. He has an economics degree, has worked as an overseas volunteer, and possesses a multitude of skills. Kirily has recently become a partner in a well-established and busy practice in regional Bendigo, giving her a strong sense of the need for a political framework and public profile,to maintain and extend optometry’s role. Yota Yoshimitsu is well-known in Victoria for his passion for clinical optometry, including work at the VCO and at the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital, where he co-manages patients with glaucoma through a unique program.
The full Board of the Victorian Division is: Stuart Aamodt, Kirily Bowen, Steve Dinh, Andrew Harris, Allison McKendrick, Paula Monaco, Genevieve Napper, Stephen Jones and Yota Yoshimitsu. They are joined by Associate Councillors Heather Connor and Melissa Downing.
General practitioners are the cornerstone of the health care system in Australia. As we know from personal experience, a good GP is worth his weight in platinum, not just gold. Unfortunately, the time pressures that GPs face in daily practice, means that many of them exist in a sort of professional cocoon, often blissfully unaware of colleague health professionals who could lighten their load and help their patients.
The construction of the cocoon is at least in part, the fault of those other health professionals, including optometrists, who don’t make the effort to see their local GPs to discuss how they can assist them with patient management.
The OAA was recently involved in a group meeting regarding improving the knowledge of GPs in relation to eyes and eye conditions, including GPs, optometrists and ophthalmologists. One GP admitted to prescribing chloromycetin when he saw a patient with a red eye. When that didn’t work, he then referred to the patient to an ophthalmologist. When questioned as to why he didn’t send the patient straight to a local optometrist for a proper diagnosis, the GP admitted the reason was because he didn’t know of any local optometrists! The most likely cause for this scenario would be that most optometrists haven’t made the time to go and see them.
Practice building is (or should be), an integral part of any good optometric practice. Getting out into the community brings rewards both financially as well as personally. While this does take time and effort, the returns can be most substantial for those willing to make the investment. Pick up the phone and call your local GP. Schedule a time to see them – you’ll be glad you did!
Another year is almost over and Queensland still has a list of therapeutic eye drops devoid of two important steroids and all glaucoma agents. Although it was, in fact, on ANZAC Day 2003, it seems like yesterday that Health Minister, the Hon Wendy Edmond MP, publicly announced Queensland optometrists would have access to the full Victorian list including the two classes we are missing.
Achieving parity with Victoria is a long and painful journey interrupted by a series of political interferences, secret meetings, misinformation, mismanagement and misadventure. The number and the names of individuals who have played a role in the Queensland therapeutics stop sign, is simply staggering.
Of course, we did have the missing eye drops in March 2005, when then Health Minister, the Hon Gordon Nuttall MP, crafted the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Amendment Regulation No 1 2005. This was an occasion to celebrate good government, but disappeared almost immediately. He was forced to back down under the threat of 22 public hospital ophthalmologists going on strike and thus, shutting down ophthalmology wards. The government was vulnerable following the Bundaberg hospital medical tragedies.
In the past year, we have been overtaken by NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory in terms of the extent of their lists. Good luck to them and bad luck to us. The most bizarre twist is that the QUT School of Optometry now trains optometrists in those jurisdictions, to use and prescribe the steroids and glaucoma agents, that Queensland optometrists cannot prescribe. Indeed 25 per cent of the students in the current course (Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics) come from interstate or overseas.
We have to salute our local members – they have faith. They turn up for each course in droves, parting with their AUD$7,000 and a year of their lives in the hope that one day they will be able to do what their colleagues in Tamworth, Ballarat, Victor Harbor and Tennant Creek do.
Holiday tidings to our Queensland and NT members and mivision readers everywhere, and best wishes from President Shannon Pugh and Council for a peaceful and safe Christmas/New Year period.
It’s been another year of exciting and challenging times for the profession and the Association.
Moves towards a National Registration scheme has progressed one step closer to becoming a reality. The ability to move between state borders and different jurisdictions will become easier for health professions from as early as 2010. This should in turn, provide a truly portable and flexible registration system that will not only traverse state boundaries, but more importantly, deliver better health outcomes for the community at large.
The expansion of the PBS to include access to subsidised ocular therapeutics has been another significant achievement in the provision of national eye care. This has resulted after a long and continual effort by the Association in conjunction with successive governments, in recognising optometry’s role in primary health care.
2008 will be seen as a watershed year for WA, both from an economic and political perspective. The start of the year saw WA continue to plough ahead with the seemingly unstoppable minerals boom, fuelled by China’s continuing expansion and demand for resources. Little did anyone expect, however, that tumultuous events were lurking further along the year when the global economic crisis was to surface in September, and the subsequent slow down that has resulted. Despite this, the WA economy has been able to hold its own, despite the unprecedented economic events, and will look towards an improved economic outlook in 2009.
For the first time in its history, WA also achieved a Hung Parliament. The Liberal and National parties were able to form government in partnership following the September state election, which saw the Labor Government lose office after eight years.
WAVE 2008 was once again a resounding success with an increase in registrations from both local and interstate delegates. Strong sponsorship support was again the case with over 30 exhibitors taking part in the Trade Exhibition. Planning is already underway for next year’s event, which will again be held at the Esplanade Hotel and Convention Centre from 28 to 30 August 2009. Next year’s conference is shaping up to be another outstanding event and will continue to build on the groundwork of previous conferences.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank all those involved in making this year a success. Thank you to all of our 2008 business partners and corporate supporters for their ongoing relationship with the Association and the profession. It’s greatly appreciated and we always welcome their involvement. Special thanks also to OAAWA President, Geoff Smith, and the Executive Council for their commitment and professionalism when representing the membership. The team of OAA National Office, lead by Joe Chakman, continues to support the profession and assist each state division when called upon. This is especially comforting for those smaller states that occasionally need assistance.
I would also like to extend a thank you to all the WA members who comprise this great Association, and more importantly, the strong and vital profession that optometry is. It’s been a pleasure to work with the members and achieve such positive and fruitful outcomes.
To all the readers and the team at mivision (lead by Mark Cushway), I appreciate being able to share our WA experiences with all concerned and wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year. I look forward to returning in 2009.
Progress with Topical Glaucoma Patients
The Optometrists Association Australia (Tas Div) is working co-operatively with RANZCO, the Tasmanian Optometrists Registration Board, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to prepare therapeutically endorsed optometrists for the possible future authority to prescribe anti-glaucoma medications. The Minister’s Consultative Committee has recommended that 13 anti-glaucoma drugs be added as Class 1 substances in Schedule 7 of the Poisons Regulations 2002, which will enable optometrists with the necessary qualifications to prescribe those substances under a glaucoma co-management model similar to that approved in NSW.
Tasmanian President, Tim Powell, is hopeful that the amending legislation will be introduced to the Tasmanian Parliament before the end of 2008 or during the autumn 2009 session at the latest. The Optometrists Registration Board of Tasmanian has requested the Association submit a detailed education program. It is hoped the course content will be approved in time to enable the courses to be completed by February/March 2009 to coincide with the expected legislative approval being granted.
Planning for Tasmania’s Lifestyle Congress V is well underway and therapeutics will feature prominently in the program. It is hoped the Annual Keith Mackriell Lecture will focus on therapeutics, while the organising committee is also keen to attract a prominent U.S. lecturer to speak on therapeutics and glaucoma.
TLC V will be held at The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel in Hobart from 14 to 16 August 2009. Further information is available from Tasmanian CEO Geoff Squibb [[email protected], phone (AUS) 03 6224 3360.
Two New Honorary NZAO Members
- Mr. Ron Fyfe
- Prof. Michael Kalloniatis
Ron Fyfe has contributed to the Association through his work for the World Council of Optometry and Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas, and service to members as President and Councillor of the NZAO.
Professor Kalloniatis has headed the Department of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland for the past five years, making an important contribution to optometric research. He has played a key role in the partnership of optometry and ophthalmology within the NZ National Eye Centre, which bodes well for the future of academic optometry in New Zealand.
The NZAO conference was opened by Mr. Mark Weldon, CEO of the New Zealand Stock Exchange. Mr. Weldon shared some insights into his thinking about the NZ economy, the current problems in the world financial markets, and ways that New Zealand could work its way to improved prosperity in the future.
Dr John Marwick, of the Ministry of Health, spoke about the Ministry’s policy work, in particular, the Primary Health Care Strategy, providing current feedback on the review of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. Dr Marwick addressed the aspects of the Act and the flexibility that it provides for adopting new ways of working.
As promised, on Sunday, 5 October, the 78th NZAO conference delivered a program of clinical and practical information, diagnostic work ups, patient communications, R&D optics and local optometric research. The conversational style of presentation by key note presenters, Dr Ron Melton and Dr Randall Thomas, was entertaining as well as reinforcing.
This year’s program was further extended for those who preferred to escape the main lectures with a variety of workshops on offer, ranging from the CAA Accreditation Seminar, low vision workshops, behavioural vision, dilated pupil examination techniques workshop, and various options with Wellington Ophthalmologists – Tony Wells, Andrew Logan, Steve Mackey and Nina Ashraff.
The 79th NZAO Annual Conference will be held in Christchurch from 15-18 October 2009.