The Lions Outback Vision Van – a unique service model that delivers ophthalmology clinic-based care for all major eye conditions close to where people live in isolated communities – has run 75 clinics and treated almost 1,500 patients since its launch six months ago.
Lions Outback Vision is an outreach service of the Lions Eye Institute (LEI). The Van is fitted with state-of-the art ocular imaging and laser equipment.
McCusker Director Lions Outback Vision, Associate Professor Angus Turner, said the Van had visited 16 different communities in Western Australia, stretching from Albany to Kununurra. Of the patients seen, 661 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“While most vision loss can be corrected overnight, 35 per cent of Indigenous adults have never had an eye examination,” Associate Professor Turner said. “The Vision Van is.”
Vision disorders are a common and growing problem in Western Australia with thousands of people suffering visual loss and blindness each year. This results in significant economic, social and quality of life impacts. In remote Western Australia, specialist coverage is up to 19 times lower than in urban Australia and rural residents are three times less likely to have seen an ophthalmologist. Professional patient care is provided by specialist staff experienced in rural and remote health care.
“The Van and its team have provided care using equipment that exceeds some tertiary hospital facilities and has prevented patients having to travel to the city for the gold standard care,” said Associate Professor Turner. “It has worked closely with Aboriginal Medical Service sites and integrated with existing health facilities where larger surgery procedures have been required.
“While it is early days, the LOV Van model appears to be delivering on its goal and leading to greater equity of access to specialist eye health services for regional and remote Western Australians,” said Associate Professor Turner. “We can say with confidence the Van is making a real difference in protecting the eye health of some of our most vulnerable citizens and is a strong contributor to the improved eye health outcomes for regional Western Australians – as revealed in the National Eye Health Survey.
Lions Outback Vision is part of the LEI and delivers a range of eye care services to regional and remote Western Australia. The LEI is an internationally renowned non-profit medical research institute. The Van has been made possible through supporters, including the WA Department of Health, McCusker Foundation and Lotterywest.