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HomemioptometryOptometry Association Reports Oct 2010

Optometry Association Reports Oct 2010

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


Andrew McKinnon

I recently had one of those great moments in your working life, where you see with real clarity how a change that seems fairly innocuous can make a huge difference to someone else’s perceptions of themselves and their careers.

A group of us were having dinner after a seminar on national registration in Port Macquarie. One of the members, Alan Burrow of Coffs Harbour, was genuinely excited about one of the pieces of information he’d received that evening – that optometrists could now use the title ‘doctor’.

We will be reminding both sides of politics of the crucial role optometrists play in primary eye care

Alan wasn’t excited because he thought that he’d sound better as Dr. Alan Burrow, Optometrist. He was excited because, as he explained it, this presented optometrists with a truly unique opportunity to position themselves in the community’s mind as the first-choice professionals when it comes to eye care.

As Alan saw it, the community equates the title ‘doctor’ with a superior level of trust, expertise and skill. Provided we can meet these expectations, we have a chance to truly cement optometry’s place in the primary health care community.

But therein lies the challenge – can we meet the expectations?

People like Alan are at the forefront of raising their professional skill levels to the top bar. Like many others, he’s completed his therapeutics training and bases his practice around providing first quality eye care.

But what about optometry in another guise – 20 minute consults and 2-for-1 deals? Does clinical practice of this sort equate to a community’s (hopefully) high expectations of optometry?

Maybe so – probably not. Maybe we’re about to see a clear delineation develop between different styles of practice – nothing wrong with either, but almost unrecognisable from each other.

Time – and the community’s needs – will tell us if one, both or more will be the way of the future.


Terri Smith

With a state election looming in Victoria, we are making sure the parties know just how important primary eye care services are to the Victorian community.

A state election is always a good excuse to sit down with sitting members and their hopeful opposites to make sure they understand what optometrists do each day and the important role our members play in the eye care system.

We have maintained an excellent relationship with Daniel Andrews MP over many years now, initially in his role as Minister for Consumer Affairs and over the past three years in his role as Health Minister. Mr Andrews has been supportive to changes in therapeutics and has a good understanding of the important role of optometrists. David Davis MP is the opposition spokesperson for health. Interestingly, prior to taking up a parliamentary seat, Mr Davis was a practising chiropractor. We have arranged meetings with both parties prior to the November election to discuss a range of issues.

We have developed a submission to present to each of the parties, which is available on our website www.optometrists.asn.au/victoria. We are asking both sides to pursue the current discrepancies remaining on the national stage after the implementation of national registration for health practitioners. It is unfortunate that we still have different drug lists for different states in Australia. We had hoped to resolve these discrepancies with national registration. While the Victorian government doesn’t have the capacity to fix this issue, it can help push for a resolution.

We are also asking both parties to address the lack of nationally consistent legislation for a valid prescription to dispense lenses. South Australia has substantial penalties for dispensing without a valid script while in Victoria there is no specific requirement for a script, although there is legislation limiting who can write a script!

Among other issues we will be discussing the role of optometry in the health care system and reminding both sides of politics of the crucial role optometrists play in primary eye care. We will discuss the importance of children’s vision screening and the need for additional funds for low cost glasses for those most at need in our community.

While the big issues for optometry, like Medicare and PBS, are decided at a national level, it is still important to raise awareness at a state government level. These discussions are an opportunity to talk to politicians about the issues that our members raise with us throughout the year.


Greg Johnson

The election process for the Board of Directors of OAA Qld is in full swing after nomination forms were emailed to members in early August.

After five outstanding years as President, Shannon Smith has decided to retire from that position and, in accordance with the constitution, will remain on the Board as immediate Past-President. Simon Hurwood has given 11 years of his professional life to the Division and is retiring. Tom Bennett has recently purchased a practice in Charters Towers and has reluctantly decided to retire to enable him to concentrate on developing his new business. Vice-President Kate Johnson has nominated as President and also has indicated that she will replace Simon as a Director on the National Board.

Board member Kady Brandon has nominated as Vice-President and Nancy Atkinson has renominated as Treasurer. Existing Directors David Bradley and Jason Holland have also nominated again. Former QUT student representative Emily Woodman has nominated for her first term as a Director, as has Marissa Cassimatis. So, at this stage, all positions are covered and an election will not be necessary. However, as nominations don’t close until 14 October, that position could change.

We have been blessed in Queensland/NT to have substantial representation of both young people and females. In fact, if the final makeup of the Board is similar to what it is today, the composition will be six females and two males. No doubt many Boards across the nation would be envious of that position.

For the past decade the Board has had a QUT undergraduate student in its numbers – always as the result of a student approaching the Board to secure that position. Approaches already have been made for a position on the 2010-11 Board. At its August meeting, Directors resolved that the appointment of a representative would be timed to coincide with the annual elections for the Queensland Optometry Students Society. In the future, interested students will be asked to write to the Association outlining their motivation for seeking appointment to the Board and, in turn, Directors will make a determination.


Tony Martella

During September, we ran our first eye clinic for homeless people in Fremantle through the Hands on Health Clinic. The concept of free eye examinations is not new to our Association. For the past two years we have contributed to the Homeless Connect Project in November by providing free eye checks and spectacles to those needing help. The Homeless Connect Project is an annual program conducted by the City of Perth and Volunteering WA. Once again it’s tremendous to see our members volunteering their time to such a worthwhile cause as this eye clinic. I sincerely thank them for their efforts, professionalism and skills they display in making the clinic a success.

The Hands on Health Clinic in Fremantle was run in conjunction with the Saint Patrick’s Community Support Centre and over a few hours, our volunteers examined, and where necessary, dispensed free spectacles to approximately 40 patients. It is wonderful to be able to provide such a valuable service – by simply giving up a few hours of our time and a few dollars. With continued industry support we hope to establish the clinics on a monthly basis as part of Saint Patrick’s Community overall healthcare program.

Once again the OAAWA hosted the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand optometry entrance exams in Sept. The exams provide the opportunity for optometrists, who have recently migrated to Australia, to have their international qualifications recognised so they can practise in our country. Candidates arrive in Western Australia from all over the world and we are very keen to support them in their endeavours to establish a practise in our State given the need and demand for optometrists generally.

Finally, in late September, we held our Annual General Meeting which we’ll provide you with an update on, in our next issue.


Libby Boschen

Cosmetic Contact Lens Legislation Correction

An article in mivision entitled ‘The Gaga Doe-Eyed Look Comes Under Fire’ (Aug 10, Issue 49) reported that ‘in South Australia it’s illegal to sell CCLs (cosmetic contact lenses)’. Although it is illegal to sell these to a customer who does not present a valid lens prescription written by an optometrist or medical practitioner, it is in fact legal for any retail outlet to sell cosmetic contact lenses. Yes, this is confusing.

This law was first introduced in South Australia in 2007, under the Optometry Practise Act, after persistent lobbying of the government by the Optometrists Association Australia (South Australia) concerning the health risks of inappropriate use of contact lenses. In the subsequent Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (SA) Act 2010, made law on 1 July, the South Australian government strengthened their position on cosmetic contact lenses further, with a AUD$30,000 fine for retailers selling cosmetic contact lenses without a valid prescription. Once they know about it, the fine will deter the vast majority of casual retailers – the profit associated with selling a few fancy lenses, just isn’t worth the risk. So if you know of an outlet selling these lenses, I encourage you to be public-spirited – pop in to let them know the new laws!

The South Australian government’s reasoning for this slightly unusual – and confusing – solution is as follows. Stopping retailers such as dress shops and fashion accessory stores from selling cosmetic contact lenses is anti-competitive and flies in the face of the competition policy principles adopted in this state. The purpose of insisting on a valid prescription, which can (if the prescribing practitioner wants) include the full trial and fitting process, is to provide the purchaser of the lenses with an opportunity to learn the health risks associated with wearing contact lenses of any sort, along with how to care for their lenses and their eyes. It also provides the optometrist with a chance to assess the suitability of the patient’s eyes for lenses and the likelihood of compliance before they choose (or not) to issue a prescription. Further still, the consult allows a relationship to develop with the optometrist that will encourage the patient to go back if they experience any problems or potentially, to buy their lenses.

Panda Suit, Noodle Box – What will You Wear?

This is just one of the questions we are pondering here at SA Blue Sky Congress 2010, but everything else is stitched up and waiting for you to register. Pandamonium in title only, the Adelaide-based congress promises to deliver a superb line up of relevant, current and thought-provoking education, supported by our trademark relaxed and entertaining style that has many of you hooked.

World-renowned glaucoma expert, optometrist and educator, Dr. Murray Fingeret, this year’s Blue Sky headliner, will talk about the latest in diagnosis best-practice. He will also go head to head in a debate about glaucoma diagnosis and care with Australian ophthalmologist and glaucoma researcher Dr. Rob Casson.

Award-winning photographer Mr Anton Drew will share useful tips on how to enhance the accuracy and usefulness of your clinical records by getting the most of your photo-slit lamp.

Dr. Dinesh Selva will bring you up to speed on what patients can gain from the surgical management of issues relating to lid abnormalities and watery eyes. And Dr. Ann Webber will provide practical advice on evidence -based management of childhood amblyopia, in addition to sharing what she learned from a day in an ocular oncology clinic.

Learn about the affects of psychiatric medication on vision (Dr. Les Koopowitz) how to make astigmatism a successful part of your contact lens practice (Mr. Emmanuel Calligeros), and what to do when RGPs fail in keratoconus (from Mr. Jim Kokkinakis).

A great line up at a great new venue – the Adelaide Zoo: with Luck Wang Wang and Funi, the only pandas in the southern hemisphere, in attendance right outside the venue!

Visit www.optometrists.asn.au/southaustralia and click on the panda to register.