Late last year, we surveyed our members on a range of issues. One of the questions we asked was: are you therapeutically qualified?
Forty per cent told us they were – and a further four per cent were enrolled in post graduate ocular therapeutics. Of those not currently therapeutically endorsed, 18 per cent said they had a high interest in doing the course or were planning to enroll.
With another year of students graduating from the University of Melbourne, we now have more than 40 optometrists with therapeutic qualifications. Early in 2009, a new group will commence their post graduate certificate at Melbourne University.
Victoria has now had an optometric therapeutic list for more than ten years, but of course, it is only a little more than a year since the majority of these drugs have been available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Even more exciting, we now also have glaucoma drugs on the PBS.
This poses some interesting questions on the future direction of optometry. While we don’t have a crystal ball, there are certain things we can predict:
- With each year, there will be an increasing number of therapeutically endorsed optometrists.
- Over time, the general public will come to expect their local optometrist to be able to prescribe drugs.
- With ocular therapeutics available to endorsed optometrists in most Australian states and taught at Australian and New Zealand’s optometry schools, we will see the number of therapeutic optometrists across the country increase.
- Optometry practices will continue to wrestle with how to balance therapeutic optometry (for some, very interesting, although not financially lucrative), with the realities of running a small business.
In our membership, I can see a quiet tension around the issue of therapeutics. Some of our older members bring many years of experience and judgment to the professional role they undertake daily, whilst new graduates enter the workforce with therapeutic qualifications, minus the experience.
As a professional Association, our job is to support all of our members. It is still some time before therapeutic qualifications will be the norm in optometry, however, that time will come. In the interim, we will continue to ensure that we work for all our members. This issue is always a priority when planning the SRC Educational Program. It is crucial to us that our major educational event is relevant for all our members. Terri Smith
Change is a constant in all our lives and so it is with the Association. Two big changes will be coming up for NSW/ACT members during 2009 and beyond.
The first change involves member communication. From around April this year, the Division will cease to issue a printed newsletter each month. Instead, we will be communicating with members via a regular email newsletter and SMS alerts for particularly important matters such as new Award releases. We hope that this change will allow members to digest the information we have to share with them more easily and conveniently and in a form that’s more attractive and enticing to read.
The second big change is the dropping of the state conference for NSW/ACT in favour of a series of smaller workshopstyle CPD events. It is clear that members in NSW and the ACT prefer these smaller, more hands-on types of courses and as a member organisation we need to give members what they want. The program for 2009 is currently being developed and we should have a list of events available for members shortly.
Finally, everywhere you turn people are talking doom and gloom for 2009. Don’t get caught up in it! Even if things do turn quiet, use the time to revitalise your patient lists – go through your database and contact lapsed patients to see if they need your services now. Have a look at your practice – is it looking tired? Could a simple spruce up, make it look more enticing? Get your whole staff involved in reviewing the practice, looking for opportunities that might be present or ways in which you could improve the service you offer. Have a great 2009! Andrew McKinnon
Queenslanders go to the polls this year and, like all elections since 2000, we will be calling on the government and opposition to reinstate our list of therapeutic eye drops to that enjoyed by New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory citizens. Missing from our list are all glaucoma medications and two uveitis medications. Those medications are currently under review by the fourth committee appointed by the Minister since 25 April 2003, namely the Optometrists Drugs Authority Committee or ODAC.
In planning our campaign with renowned public relations firm BBS PR, we undertook several pieces of research in order to fully understand the extent of service deficiency in the state. That research revealed that some 60,000 Queenslanders suffer from glaucoma, with 30,000 of those being undiagnosed.
Seventeen public hospitals were approached regarding consultation times – eight said they did not provide a service for glaucoma patients; four offered a six to nine month wait; one had a one year wait; two had a two year wait; one had a three year wait; and finally, one had a five year waiting list. We concluded that these were fairly compelling reasons for the state to catch up with the rest of Australia.
In the lead up to the election, the state’s 900 members were asked to volunteer to meet with their local members of parliament and other candidates. Not surprisingly, a very large number participated.
There are 89 seats across the state and it would be nice to think that each of those seats could have ten active optometrists visiting candidates. All candidates will receive the same, simple message: “We are calling on the Queensland Government to follow the lead of the other states and territories, which allow optometrists to prescribe glaucoma and uveitis medications.”
Our campaign will also include a launch; weekly media focusing on incidents; engaging ‘white night’ community groups to lobby the Premier, Health Minister and Shadow Health Minister; and a barrage of letters to MPs from patients. Greg Johnson
Low Vision Seminar at Tasmanian Lifestyle Congress 2009
This year’s Tasmanian Lifestyle Congress (TLC V) to be held in Hobart from 14 to 16 August, will also offer a special Low Vision Seminar as a pre-congress option.
Tasmanian Optometrists Association President, Mr. Tim Powell said: “The Tasmanian Division is committed to providing continuing educational opportunities that are relevant and practical for members. As there are very few opportunities for continuing education in the field of low vision being provided in Australia, Tasmania will try and fill the void.”
The three hour Low Vision Seminar will be held on Saturday 14 August from 9.00am to 12 noon, a time previously set aside for meetings of Tasmanian Committees. Adjunct Professor Jan Lovie-Kitchin, from the Queensland University of Technology, will be the key presenter at the seminar, which will cater for optometrists and other healthcare providers wishing to learn more about low vision as well providing more advanced and up to date information for those already involved.
Further details are available from Optometrists Association Australia, Tasmanian CEO, Geoff Squibb. Contact (03) 62243360 or email [email protected].
Take Message to the Pollies
The Tasmanian Division of Optometrists Association Australia recently adopted a novel approach to take the eye health message to the country’s members of State Parliaments.
The Division provided shirts and caps for the Tasmanian Parliamentary Bowls teams bearing the Association’s logo, shirts emblazed across the back with ‘Tasmania – optometrists committed to good vision’, and caps bearing, ‘Tasmania – a state of good vision’. The Tasmanian Parliamentary Bowls Club entered three teams into the annual Interstate Parliamentary Bowling Carnival that was held in Hobart from 5 to 8 January 2009.
Teams consisting of current and former members of each Australian State Parliament participated in the event that has been running since 1961. A Tasmanian team won this year’s competition.
National Director, Andrew Hogan, is pictured, third from left, presenting the uniforms to former Tasmanian Health Minister and current Minister for Primary Industry and Water, Minister for Energy and Resources and Minister for Planning, the Hon. David Llewellyn MP. From left are: Independent Members of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Kerry Finch MLC and Norma Jamieson MLC. Geoff Squibb
With the memory of Christmas and the holidays now a distant memory, 2009 is well and truly up and running for the Association and profession.
The past six months have been an extremely tough and demanding time, considering the global financial crisis we have experienced. Never before have we undergone such an economic meltdown on this scale. Even companies appearing to be seemingly secure and bullet-proof, such as the banks, have been on a downhill slope as a result.
The economy, both locally and nationally, has seen a dramatic change in its dynamics, with job losses continuing to mount and the additional tightening of spending by consumers, despite the best efforts of fiscal stimulus by governments worldwide. This has understandably made for uncertain times for all concerned and will continue to do so for some time to come.
Despite this, it’s not all doom and gloom. Many Western Australia members are feeling their practice workloads while still busy, are becoming more manageable and less chaotic than corresponding times during the height of WA’s resource industry boom.
Optometry in the west has still been relatively steady in terms of demand for its services and shows a reasonable, if not modest, ability to ride out the storm.
Despite being less buoyant than the past, many members are now saying how this economic downturn has allowed the profession to take a breather and return to more normal levels of expectations and demands.
With many tipping that tough economic times will remain for some time yet, it’s safe to say that while not completely insulated by these turn of events, the demand for optometry by the public will still be reasonable. The profession in the west remains in a good position to endure these times and to continue to deliver the level of eye health care that is expected by the public and be ready for the next instalment that it encounters. Tony Martella
As many of the NZAO pamphlets are due to be reprinted, I’ve been reviewing content and redesigning them to produce a more up to date appearance.
NZAO Council recently considered the need to observe environmental issues and carbon credits.
As a result, NZAO will now stock and supply biodegradable cotton bags as an optional alternative to the plastic bags currently supplied.
We recently put out a call to encourage members to use the online cataract assessment tool CPAC and to submit the reports when referring cataract patients to the District Health Boards.
The CPAC tool provides impact on life assessments which aids the DHB’s with prioritisation decisions. This also helps the optometrist identify and give guidance in respects to current thresholds, which determine eligibility to treatment.
Diabetes Credentialing Programme
As part of its commitment to the National DR Screening Guidelines, the NZAO undertook the development of a program aimed at learning and assessment, and designed to ensure competence of registered optometrists providing services within a quality controlled programme. This is comprised of three key parts: online modular course of study, practical DR skills assessment of diagnostic techniques (same requirement for CAA and TPA accredited optoms), and grading of test set(s) of images to a required standard. The New Zealand Association Optometrists