m
Recent Posts
Connect with:
Tuesday / June 25.
HomeminewsDeakin Uni Optom Stirs the Pot

Deakin Uni Optom Stirs the Pot

Deakin University is looking to expand its health and medical programs with the possible introduction of a new suite of optometry courses.

In a statement released by the University, Deakin said it was considering the bachelor, graduate entry and masters degrees that could begin in 2012 as a response to the growing and unmet demand for optometrists throughout Australia.

But the move is subject to accreditation by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand and is already the cause of controversy within the profession.

If it (the program) proceeds, optical industry giants Luxottica and Specsavers would partner with Deakin in what the university describes as a “strongly industry-related curriculum”.

We are confident that our optometric practice partners will appreciate the benefits of providing a training network for Deakin University students and we will work with both Deakin and our practice partners to support the development of in-practice placements

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said Australia was experiencing “significant shortages in the optometry workforce, with rural and regional communities the hardest hit”.

“Access Economics estimates that the shortfall in optometrists could be as great as 3,800 FTE (full time equivalents) by 2026. We will be exploring the opportunities for Deakin to address this workforce shortfall,” she said.

Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) National Chief Executive Officer Joe Chakman said the proposed courses were unnecessary, because the forecasts in the Access Economics report were wrong.

“The projections assumed optometrists were working to full capacity… but this is not the case,” he said in Australian Optometry, the OAA official newsletter.

“There is a need for more optometrists in rural areas, but that need is hard to fill because a permanent practice needs a population of 7,000 to 10,000… to establish a full-time practice,” he said.

Mr. Chakman said the proposed course would have wide-ranging implications for the industry, with employee practitioners being impacted the most.

“It’s simply a question of supply and demand. In time graduates will have trouble getting jobs because graduate numbers are growing faster than the need.

Despite Mr. Chakman’s strong comments, industry sources told mivision there is support for the Deakin proposal among the profession, particularly if it is able to achieve its stated aim of providing more optometrists for rural and remote areas.

Professor den Hollander said the curriculum being considered by Deakin would be strongly industry-related, including counselling and business skills development and there would be a major focus on rural and regional optometry practice and the development of chronic disease prevention and management skills.

“The program would need to respond to the industry’s desire for graduates with good communication and business skills as well as technical competence.”

It is envisaged that the program would be run out of a new, AUD$47 million, state-of-the-art teaching and research facility to be built adjacent to the School of Medicine on Deakin’s Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds.

“This could be Australia’s first truly ‘national’ program of optometry,” said Professor John Catford, the Dean of Deakin’s Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences.

“Through partnerships with industry leaders, Luxottica and Specsavers, extensive clinical placements could be offered in optometry practices throughout regional Australia. A new learning platform, Deakin Health Online, would also be available to support students while on placement.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Deakin’s rural and regional health programs and could strengthen the University’s commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of all people in Australia and our surrounding region,” Professor Catford said.

Chris Beer, Luxottica’s Chief Executive Officer for Asia Pacific, Greater China and South Africa, described the proposal as the “most significant initiative in the optometry industry in 40 years”.

“The shortage of optometrists available, particularly in rural and regional areas, has continued to grow in the absence of additional graduate courses or increased student intake. We welcome the opportunity to help train and develop Deakin University students.

Specsavers Founder and Chairman, Mr. Doug Perkins, said his company supported Deakin’s goal to increase the number of industry-ready optometrists, particularly in our rural, remote and under-serviced regions.

“We are confident that our optometric practice partners will appreciate the benefits of providing a training network for Deakin University students and we will work with both Deakin and our practice partners to support the development of in-practice placements.”