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Specsavers Founders Award Local Achievers

Outstanding achievers within the Specsavers Australia and New Zealand group have been recognised by the organisation’s founders –  Doug and Dame Mary Perkins.

At a Specsavers Clinical Conference (SCC) in August, Mr Perkins presented the Doug Perkins awards to Specsavers Harvey Bay Pialbal in Queensland, Australia, and to Specsavers Queenstown-Remarkables in New Zealand.

To be recognised for clinical excellence and patient care is all down to our team; we all care deeply about providing the very best care to our community

At an SCC event in September, Dame Mary Perkins presented the 2021 inaugural Specsavers Dame Mary Perkins Medal for Outstanding Patient Care awards to Mariella Coluccio from Specsavers Bankstown, New South Wales and Celeste Raisbeck from Specsavers Rotorua in New Zealand.

The Dame Mary Perkins Medal considers nominations within the Specsavers network. Individuals, teams or stores are eligible, including retail and optometry team members, as well as partners.

Saving Lives

Optometry partner, Ms Coluccio, was recognised by peers for her persistence in following through with a three-year-old child with severe swollen optic nerves, who had been discharged from hospital with fever and nausea. Speaking with mivision, Ms Coluccio, who has practised as an optometrist for 25 years, said she felt honoured to have been in the practice on the day when the little girl’s mother brought her in, having noticed her eye turn.

“It was my rostered day off but I was filling in for my optometrist who was unwell. I walked into my practice and the little girl was sitting there with her mother. She was my first patient of the day and it was a life-saving consultation.”

With years of experience and children of her own, Ms Coluccio said she immediately recognised that the child was terribly ill and her mother, who spoke limited English, was extremely scared and worried.

Ms Coluccio took time to calm and build a rapport with the child before she could examine her. Once she acquired images using the optical coherence tomographer (OCT), she could see the swollen optic nerves. She took it upon herself to call the hospital emergency department triage nurse and insist the child was admitted.

“The hospital had sent the little girl home twice, suggesting she had a virus, but it was immediately clear that she needed urgent hospitalisation… For some conditions, timing is critical and this was one of them. As an optometrist it was my duty of care to ensure I’d done everything I could for that patient before they walked out the door, and that’s what I did.”

Subsequently, the child had emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage, and while the road to recovery will be long, she is on the way. Ms Coluccio said she remains in regular contact with the patient’s parents.

“I am so grateful that I was able to take action on behalf of that little girl and her parents,” she said.

Strengthening Community

Ms Raisbeck, an optometrist of 30 years, was recognised for her participation in the Specsavers Community Program, during which she provided ocular health screening to the people of Murupara, a small Maori community in Rotorua.

“Murupara is a lovely part of our country, but it’s remoteness and small size make it difficult to provide regular health services of any kind,” Ms Raisbeck explained. “Public transport is very limited so people are reliant on others taking them on the three hour round trip for appointments. The community has higher needs due to the predominantly Maori and ageing population.”

With support from her team in the practice, Ms Raisbeck has participated in six outreach programs to Murupara Community. This one was unique in that it was initiated by the Rotorua ophthalmologists to provide information on the prevalence of undiagnosed eye disease and background eye health for the local District Health Board.

“My role was purely refraction. If I could provide visual improvement distance or near with ready-made hyperopic glasses, then these were handed out on the day. Specsavers in the Community donated 110 pairs of glazed larger size ophthalmic frames in low to medium hyperopic prescriptions… If the person needed customised glasses, due to myopia, astigmatism or anisometropia, then the recommendation was for a referral to an optometrist.

Speaking of the award, she said, “I am really pleased that Specsavers has instigated wider recognition of staff and teams who provide positive patient care experiences, because these are really satisfying parts of our jobs which can’t be measured with KPIs.

“I love meeting people, and meeting them where they live is even more special. Being accepted into their Community through a powhiri (welcome), and sharing of karakia (prayers), waiata (songs) and kai (food), allows us to then give back by sharing our skills and helping them live better quality lives.

Building a Team

Specsavers Harvey Bay Pialbal optometry partner Sarel van der Westhuizen said his team was “absolutely over the moon and bursting with pride” having won the Doug Perkins medal for Australia.

“To be recognised for clinical excellence and patient care is all down to our team; we all care deeply about providing the very best care to our community.”

He said consistency and a team focus are the keys to his practice success.

“Our clinical team meets regularly to go over our reports and share cases to learn from each other, as well as highlight areas to focus on for the weeks ahead. We support our graduate optometrists to continue their learning with on-going mentoring. We regularly speak about how we can best help our patients in their eye health journey by referring and working with patient support groups such as Glaucoma Australia and Diabetes Australia. We have also developed a great relationship with our local ophthalmologists, so we can provide seamless collaborative care for our patients, and as a clinical team we receive consistent feedback on our referrals which helps us with better detection and diagnosis.”

He added that daily huddles enable the clinical team to share case studies with the retail team so that everyone understands the part they play in helping patients.

People-Centred Approach

Sophie Woodburn, optometrist partner at Specsavers Queentown- Remarkables, said her team was “blown away” to receive the Doug Perkins medal for the second year in a row.

“As a team it’s been rewarding and humbling to be recognised for the personalised and caring approach we take with every patient. Caring for our community is our single most important focus, and we are delighted to see that recognised by the Doug Perkins medal. On a personal level it means a lot to me as an optometrist because providing excellent patient care is why I go to work every day. As an Optometry Partner I couldn’t be prouder of our team continuing to live these values every day, despite the challenges from COVID and lockdowns.”

Ms Woodburn said she and her fellow director, Leigh Jackson, emphasise “a people-centred approach to every patient, every day, regardless of the challenges.

“So winning this award highlights to us the hard work our team has put in over the last very challenging 12 months. Through lockdowns and restrictions, we did our best to continue to provide affordable, accessible and quality care, and we are incredibly grateful to have been recognised in this way.

As the latest lockdown in Queenstown eased, Ms Woodburn concluded, “We are lucky to have such a fabulous team, who are just as passionate about customer care as we are… we can’t wait to celebrate.”