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The delegation including far left, Brien Holden Vision Institute translator Huynh Phuong Ly, and fourth from left Luke Arundel from Optometry Australia

By Helen Carter

Journalist

Australia’s involvement in helping to establish the optometry profession in Vietnam continued this week when a delegation from Vietnam visited Melbourne.

The purpose of the seven-member delegation was to understand the scope of practice, governance and registration of optometrists in the region and also to study examples of integration of optometry into public and private health facilities and the contribution to blindness prevention in the region.

Facilitators were Optometry Victoria/South Australia member Dr Suit May Ho who is also Director of Education and Development for the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, Australia, and the foundation’s country representative, Vietnam, Ms Huynh Phuong Ly.

May, who is based at the Australian College of Optometry, was pivotal in establishing the first two optometry schools in Vietnam and before that trained eye health workers in Vietnam in refraction.

‘As optometry is a new profession in Vietnam, what they learn from this trip will directly inform the decision to issue a scope of practice for optometrists in Vietnam,’ May said.

‘Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation and partner universities in Vietnam have introduced the optometry profession into Vietnam and there are now 83 graduate optometrists.

‘Australian optometrists including Optometry Australia Chief Clinical Officer Luke Arundel, and institutions have played a significant role in the development of the profession in Vietnam. However, these 83 graduates are yet to be recognised by the Ministry of Health and do not have a job code to work within the health system.

‘One of the aims of the study tour is for them to look at the registration of optometrists and scope of practice in Australia. We are looking to have optometry registered as an independent profession and not under another job code or jurisdiction of the medical profession.’

Vice Director of the Vietnam Ministry of Health Personnel Department Mr Trần Viết Hùng and Optometry Australia Chief Clinical Officer, optometrist Luke Arundel

The delegation, involving representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Health Strategy and Policy Institute, visited Malaysia last week before arriving in Australia this week.

Participants visited Optometry Victoria/South Australia member Richard Lindsay’s practice. They also visited the Optometry Victoria/South Australia office where they heard Luke Arundel from Optometry Australia who spoke about the cost-effectiveness of optometry as primary eye care and the role of a professional association.

‘Optometry Australia will assist in development of the profession in the region,’ Luke said.

Study tour participants also heard representatives from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and visited the Australian College of Optometry, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital’s glaucoma collaborative clinic.

Members of the delegation were Vice Director of the Ministry of Health Personnel Department Mr Trần Viết Hùng, ophthalmologist and Head of Paediatric Ophthalmology, Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology Dr Nguyễn Xuân Tinh, Vice Director of the Health Strategy and Policy Institute Vũ Thị Minh Hạnh, senior expert Personnel Department Đỗ Thị Phương Thảo, senior expert Legal Department Nguyễn Thị Minh Hường, senior expert Health Strategy and Policy Institute Trần Thị Hồng Cẩm and program coordinator, Health Strategy and Policy Institute Vũ Thị Mai Anh.

Vietnam’s first 12 optometrist graduates graduated from the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh City on 8 November, 2018. These 12 joined an existing 12 overseas-trained optometrists practising in Vietnam to serve a population of 93 million people.

On August 20, 2019, the first 43 optometry graduates graduated from the nation’s second optometry school, Hanoi Medical University School of Optometry.

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