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HomemioptometryOptometry Association Reports Apr 2010

Optometry Association Reports Apr 2010

Happenings and events from the optometry divisions in Australia and New Zealand


I’ve had a run of complaints to deal with of late. Almost without exception, they are relatively minor matters, but they all have a common theme – misunderstood communication.

It is always good practice to occasionally step back from our daily endeavours and reassess how we are communicating with those around us.

One of our particular problems is that we deal not only in a professional environment but also in a retail one. As such, it is both our professional advice and the characteristics of our products that is a potential source of disquiet for our patients.

I’ve had a run of complaints to deal with of late. Almost without exception, they are relatively minor matters, but they all have a common theme – misunderstood communication

Thus, it is even more important that we take the time to listen carefully to our patients’ needs and to do our best to ensure that they understand what we can offer them and the terms of that offer.

Two recent examples to illustrate:

  • Professional – a patient contacted me, irate that they had been ‘coerced’ into having a retinal photograph taken and was then charged a private fee. On investigation, I was satisfied that there had been no coercion at all and that everything had been properly disclosed – but the patient either hadn’t heard or hadn’t understood. It was a lot of angst for nothing.
  • Retail – a patient asked for a half-rimless frame, similar to the one her husband wore. When it was delivered the nylon top half of the frame had a slight milky appearance – just the characteristic of the nylon. However the patient was most unhappy – she had wanted a rimless-looking half-rimless frame. Again it took a lot of discussion to resolve the matter.

In both cases the key was communication – both optometrists thought that they had communicated well – but both patients heard something different.

There is a technique called ‘active listening’ – it involves questioning and reinforcement to ensure that communication is being understood. It is a very simple but powerful tool and is very well explained at http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm

I commend it to you!

Andrew McKinnon


The news came though on Thursday, 18 February that Queensland optometrists would finally be permitted to prescribe topical glaucoma medications under a shared care arrangement with ophthalmologists. Queensland Health Director-General Mick Reid sent a letter to President Shannon Smith advising of the abolition of the Optometrists Drugs Authority Committee (ODAC) and the introduction of a new Ocular Therapeutics Protocol (OTP).

Mr. Reid said: “arrangements are being made for the new OTP to be published on Queensland Health’s website. Included in this OTP is an approved Glaucoma Protocol that will allow suitably trained optometrists to use or prescribe Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme endorsed anti-glaucoma drugs in accordance with guidelines for the management of glaucoma patients in a shared care arrangement with ophthalmologists”.

Mr. Reid also noted that steps are being taken towards developing a national approach to non-medical prescribing and that Queensland strongly supports that process, news that will be welcomed by the National Association. He also acknowledged the strong representations made by the Association and wished the profession the best for the coming year.

We wish to thank Deputy Premier and Health Minister, the Hon. Paul Lucas MP and Mr Reid for their assistance in this matter. There is no doubt that things are changing in Queensland Health – for the better.

President Shannon Smith said that the news was “breathtaking” and that she was optimistic for a better future for the state’s glaucoma patients in terms of access and equity. She noted the extremely close relationships that had been forged between her members and the State’s 100 or so ophthalmologists over the past few years and said that she envisaged the development of many dynamic partnerships delivering outstanding care to patients.

The OTP can be found at http://www.health.qld.gov.au/health_professionals/ocular/default.asp

Greg Johnson


Being here for OAA members is our most important job. Responding to the queries of our members is the best part of our day. We love to hear about the issues they are facing in their day-to-day practice, whether it be over the phone, via email or face-to-face at an OAA activity.

Our Careers Expo at the end of February was an opportunity for our new members to learn about the Association as well as meet possible future employers. Each year, we welcome the final year students into the organisation. This is another impressive and diverse group of students, keen to get out into the real world of optometry. At the Expo, they met a wide range of potential employers from independent practices to corporate and group practices. The students also met representatives from the Australian College of Optometry and Optometry Giving Sight.

I have recently visited members in Warnambool, and this month we hope to visit Ballarat. It is always a treat to meet our country members.

Increasingly, members are talking to us through our website. We receive daily queries sent directly to us from the website. If you haven’t seen the VIC Division website recently, now is the time to check it out. If there is something you want to know that’s not included, let us know so we can make sure we add it. Visit www.optometrists.asn.au and click on ‘Victoria’.

We are fast approaching SRC – our biggest opportunity each year to catch up with members face-to-face. We hope to see you there! It is always exciting to see our members catch up during the three-day event. It is also terrific to hear ideas from members to help in our program planning. Believe it or not, we are already working on the educational program for SRC 2011!

Later in the year we will be offering accredited CPR training at our premises in Carlton. Whilst we know you can find a course close to home that might suit you, we also wanted to provide the opportunity for members to have some fun together while they obtain their certificate. Our presenters will specifically address issues for optometrists, such as how to transfer a patient from the chair to the floor to effectively undertake the CPR – and of course we’ll offer you a light meal and a refreshment or two over a chat after the session.

Hope to see you soon.

Terri Smith


In 2006, the WA government health department and key people from the eye care industry in WA set up an eye health initiative – The Eye Health Advisory Group. This group was set up to examine the major challenges for WA, identifying three key areas of focus:

  • Cataracts
  • Indigenous health
  • Education of health care workers and the general public.

This group has recently reconvened and has decided that over the next three years, they need to focus their energies on these key areas and come up with valuable solutions.

The Eye Health Advisory Group has brought together key stakeholders to get involved on the project, including the Association for the Blind WA, the Department of Health and Aging, Lions Health Institute, the Office of Aboriginal Health as well as major public hospitals and of course, us (OAA WA).

Basically it is a combination of raising awareness and gaining ideas and insights from each of the key stakeholders to help answer those three key areas. This project also helps contribute to the Vision 2020 initiative

Another item of interest: at the moment we are currently in the throws of trying to start up an eye clinic for homeless people through an organisation called Hands On Health. Through the St Patrick’s community support centre, Hands On Health provide free holistic health care to people in need. However, until now Hands On Health did not include eye care, so this is a big step forward for them and for us .The services provided include everything from nurses, acupuncture, chiropractors, a regular GP service… they even have hairdressers! So the eye clinic is just natural extension.

I am currently organising volunteers to help at the health care clinic.

The kernel to making this happen for us was through our involvement with the Homeless Connect project, which is organised by the City of Perth and Volunteering WA. Homeless Connect calls this project a ‘one stop shop’ of services for homeless people, organised in a central spot in city to provide them with a range of free services to homeless people for a day. After being involved with this project, we figured we could do something outside of that, so setting up an eye care service with Hands on Health is a great way to continue to help the disadvantaged in the WA community.

As a profession we are very good at getting volunteer support and help for these kinds of projects. Now it’s a case of organising the staffing it and getting some equipment there. Our involvement with Hands On Health will probably start out as a casual service, but our hope is that it will become a more permanent fixture as time goes on.

For more information on this initiative, please visit the website at: http://www.stpats.com.au/action/hands/index.html

Tony Martella


At the moment, the state is in election mode in the aftermath of the 2010 Tasmanian state election, held on 20 March.

After the Federal Government passed theHealth Practitioner Regulation (Administrative Arrangements) National Law Act 2008 (Act A) on 25 November 2008, this gave effect to the administrative arrangements for the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the Health Professions. The Act was passed in the Queensland Parliament.and following that, a series of bills had to be passed Australia-wide. In TAS we had two bills as part of a package:

  1. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Tasmania) Bill – was passed by the House of Assembly on 17 November 2009 but unfortunately wasn’t debated before they rose for summer recess. So this is currently awaiting debate in Tasmanian Legislative Council and will have to be reinstated when parliament resumes after the national election. This Bill is needed to repeal the existing legislation and to enable the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme to take effect.
  2. Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Tasmania) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009). Tasmanian Government still needs to introduce this Bill. Once the Optometrists Registration Act is repealed, we then need this to allow for day to day complications.

At current, none of the new legislations in TAS provide the provisions for the requirement for prescriptions or the supply of optical appliances. The former Health Minister, Lara Giddings gave the OAA an undertaking that those provisions will be included in other relevant health legislations. These will be included after the election.

At the moment, we are seeking a commitment from all state government parties that they will support the package of legislation required for the system of National Registration and Accreditation. We want all parties to indicate that they will support that and a commitment that they will reinstate sections 62 to 65 (unauthorised dispensing of optical appliances, dispensing expired prescription, failure to give free prescription on request) of the previous Optometrists Registration Act 1994.

That brings us up to date politically.

We are also in the process of teeing up guest speakers and sponsors for Tasmania’s Lifestyle Congress (TLC) to be held in Hobart from 27 to 29 August. We will also be conducting free eye health and vision screening tests at Agfest from 6 to 8 May. Agfest is one of largest agricultural field days and also one of the largest public events in TAS, with 75 thousand people expected to attend over the three days.

Over the last three to four years, we have been doing the screening there, promoting regular eye tests and eye safety for rural workers. Last year we surveyed the people who came through and kept records of some of the eye tests. We found that 60 per cent of people that came through were in the 45 plus age group and 26 per cent either failed the visual acuity test or were detected with potential eye disease. Even more alarming was that 35 per cent reported that they had never seen an optometrist to have their eyes tested. Considering many major causes of glaucoma and macular degeneration can be prevented, the fact that this many people had never seen an optometrist is frightening.

We also demonstrated to people the types of equipment that a modern optometrist has access to such as the retinal camera. Most people were fascinated that we were able to give them a digital photo of the back of their eye, plus this technology alerted people to the fact that to protect their eyesight, they need to visit an eye care practitioner to conduct regular, extensive tests.

We are hoping to run a CPD (continuing professional development) course for members and pharmacists dealing with eye infections. This is important new when you consider that as of 1 July this year, it will be mandatory for most optometrists and OAA members to complete 40 points per year of continuing professional development training to maintain their registration. This equates to 20 hours of continuing professional development each year over two years. Therefore, if someone from TAS attends the SRC (Southern Regional Congress and Trade Expo) or QLD Vision and attended all sessions over the three days, they would get almost all of their year’s supply of lifestyle points. Or if members attend our TLC, they will get more than 75 percent of their annual professional development requirements. Food for thought!

Geoff Squibb