Ita Buttrose AC OBE has joined ophthalmologists around Australia to urge older and more vulnerable Australians living with a macular disease to maintain their eye injection appointments.
As Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) for 15 years, Ms Buttrose has advocated every May during the Foundation’s macular disease awareness campaign, for Australians over the age of 50 to see an optometrist for an eye examination, including a check of the macula.
This Macula Month, despite having stepped away from her role as Patron due to her commitments as Chair of the ABC, Ms Buttrose again offered her support to the community. In a passionate plea, the Australian icon said, “In a COVID-19 environment, our call to action is even more vital if we are to avoid thousands of people going unnecessarily blind on the other side of this pandemic.
“If you require injections for wet (neovascular) related macular degeneration or diabetic macular edema, or other macular conditions, it is essential that you attend your specialist appointment or discuss your treatment options with your ophthalmologist.
“Similarly, if you notice any sudden changes in your vision, or experience eye pain – even if you don’t have a diagnosed eye condition – it could be an eye emergency. It is vitally important that you contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
“Let’s make sure we all see each other on the other side of COVID-19,” Ms Buttrose said. The dramatic increase in the number of patients cancelling essential eye appointments arose during the COVID-19 pandemic despite reassurances from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) that eye injections are an essential treatment and therefore exempt from ‘stay at home’ regulations introduced by the Australian Government.
“I understand that some people might be concerned about leaving their homes to get treatments,” Ms Buttrose said, “but I can assure everyone that clinics are sterile environments and stringent clinical guidelines have been put in place to ensure people’s safety.
“Whether you’re at home or living in aged care, these eye injections are vitally important to preserving sight. Many of you have lived through times of hardship, through wars, depressions, and times of national insecurity and anxiety. Once again, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unexpected time of uncertainty, where clarity of communication and correct information is paramount.
“I want to stress if you have a scheduled eye injection, if you are a family carer or someone who needs to take a person to a scheduled eye injection, and you have not been in contact with COVID-19, you are not breaching public health measures to attend that appointment. Obviously, if you are unwell, please phone first for advice.”
Ms Buttrose urged those feeling apprehensive to contact their ophthalmologist or the MDFA’s National Helpline on 1800 111 709 for further information.