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RANZCO to Increase Indigenous and Regional Eye Care

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology (RANZCO) has informed mivision that it plans to increase its active involvement in Indigenous and regional eye care throughout 2018 in an effort to address eye health inequalities in Australia, New Zealand and further afield. The plan is part of a broader strategy for the year, which will include continued focus on providing the best possible education and training services and producing some of the best ophthalmologists in the world.

High on RANZCO’s radar is the need for a national push to eradicate avoidable Indigenous blindness, as laid out in the RANZCO endorsed Roadmap for Closing the Gap in Vision in Australia. RANZCO was recently invited by Health Minister Greg Hunt to advise on how the government can seek to achieve this lofty aim in the coming years and this will be a high priority for the coming year. Additionally, RANZCO is now developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and hopes to launch the document later this year.

RECRUITMENT OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

For some time RANZCO has maintained a dedicated Indigenous Committee, which brings together ophthalmologists from across Australia who have particular experience in service provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including via innovative service delivery models. An equivalent committee in New Zealand focuses on M?ori eye health. The Committees inform the RANZCO Board, Council, and Executive about emerging and ongoing Indigenous eye health matters; advise on appropriate projects, policies, and advocacy work; and on relevant educational matters, such as the College’s aim to recruit more Indigenous doctors into the ophthalmology profession.

The aim to recruit more Indigenous people into the profession recognises two important facts. First, that a medical speciality that better represents the population it serves can provide better, and more culturally inclusive care for the population. Second, that positive action is required to achieve this goal. With this in mind, consultation has begun on how the selection processes for the RANZCO vocational training program could be adapted to encourage more Indigenous people to apply. These changes might include a points system for Indigenous doctors and an increased focus on rural placements. It is hoped that this review will join up to the various health department initiatives to increase Indigenous applicants (and hopefully trainees) and deeper links with organisations such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the Te ORA, which represents M?ori doctors in New Zealand.

High on RANZCO’s radar is the need for a national push to eradicate avoidable Indigenous blindness

FURTHERING COLLABORATIVE CARE

In addition to a focus on reducing eye health inequalities, RANZCO’s plans for the year include further promotion of collaborative eye health care. This will include continuing to develop and update the RANZCO Referral Pathways, which aim to facilitate effective and efficient patient referrals from optometrists and GPs to ophthalmologists. This will help to ensure that patients receive the best care possible, in the most appropriate timeframe and from the most appropriate health care provider. With this in mind, the guidelines have been a joint effort between optometrists and ophthalmologists, with input from both professions and customised for New Zealand and Australia.

The RANZCO referral pathway for glaucoma management was successfully launched in 2016 and an audit of the use of the pathway by optometrists and ophthalmologists is currently underway. Development also continues this year on the RANZCO referral pathway for age related macular degeneration management and the RANZCO referral pathway for diabetic retinopathy.

RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS

In terms of raising public awareness about eye health, in addition to messages around prevention and early intervention relating to eye disease, this year RANZCO will focus on sharing information about ocular trauma, including the everyday dangers that put people at risk of eye injury and blindness. RANZCO plans to raise awareness about prevention methods to avoid eye injuries and share case studies and advice on what to do in an ocular trauma incident.